2 December 2013

Sea-Dog Day Afternoon



‘Honesty is the best policy’... Really? During an interview, I was told they were looking for somebody who was honest to which my instinctive response was to simply shout out, “well I'm not a thief”. Considering that there's nothing that could make me sound more like a thief than that, I instead decided on the much better alternative of, “Well I don't lie... often”. Panicking about my stupid inclusion of the word ‘often’ I then added “I mean like, I- err, only lie if I have to”. Obviously by this I just meant that I could be trusted to keep my mouth shut if somebody told me a secret about their love life, finances or horrendously rotten genitals. However, at this point my interviewers were already pulling the exact facial expression that Bruce Wayne's parents did about two seconds before they were shot by a mugger in a darkened ally. When they asked me about honesty, if I had just lied and said that I only ever speak the truth then ironically I would have saved myself from losing most of my bodyweight through stress-induced sweating.  In general I am a very honest person but I also have common sense and sometimes it is for the best to lie. All I did was tell the truth here and by accident I managed to convince everybody in the room that I had a secret history as a slimy Victorian grifter.

I mention all this because firstly I like to waffle and secondly, the question of honesty has been the main focus surrounding the release of the new film Captain Phillips. Based on a true story the movie claims to accurately depict the hijacking of an American cargo ship by Somalian pirates back in 2009, however the film feels as though it is being presented in two halves with the first hour specifically being dedicated to the attempted ship-theft-bullshittery. There are so many things that I loved about this but I suppose I'll start with the way in which the attackers are less equipped than a young eunuch boy in a whore house. They've got a few men, a few guns and a ladder to take them onto a ship that has a working telephone and the entire U.K. and U.S. Navy on speed dial. Sadly though when Captain Philips notices these desperate chancers, America is too busy to pick up the phone and we Brits kind of have a tendency to dismiss huge problems as being “a lot of bother about nothing”. Although his ship does have a defence system, it's really not that good because it makes the assumption that hijackers are like stray cats and can be scared off with the quick spray of a hose. It is therefore up to the unarmed crew to resort to the ships second defences which involves hiding in the shadows and hoping the whole thing just blows over.

Life is like a box of chocolates- I hate chocolate.
The second hour is however much more of a kind of claustrophobic thriller in which the hijackers attempt to piss off back home in a small lifeboat with a hostage... I won't say who it is but as a hint there might be a subtle clue in the film’s title. Here Phillips must use his wits, charm and common sense to survive as tensions begin to build and the hijackers develop a bad case of itchy-trigger-finger. If you're watching this for the do's and don’ts of surviving a hostage situation then I think the film makes it very clear that writing notes is a big mistake. At one point, Phillips notices a biro-pen and so makes a grab for it after being shown the naughty end of a machine-gun and ordered fairly clearly to stay completely fucking still. For one amazing moment, I thought Phillips was going to go ape-shit and stab them all to death with it Joe Pesci style, however as it turned out he'd instead been struck by inspiration and decided to leave a note to his family telling them how much he loved them. However to just say “I love you” apparently isn't enough and so in one of the most suspenseful scenes of the year and despite the risk of having his brains shot out he attempts to scrawl out a fucking novel. With them all confined to a small space as a rescue operation is formed by the Americans, this second half really reminded me of a kind of sea-based remake of Dog Day Afternoon. Hmm... Sea-Dog Day Afternoon is such a shit pun but using it would save me coming up with a title for this blog. Fuck it, it's done!

Anyway so the reason I mentioned all that bollocks about honesty earlier is because since its release, a lot of chatter has been shat out about the accuracy of this movie. According to Phillip's crew members, the film neglects to mention that he had been warned about the likelihood of an attack and also that he failed to take any action when alerted to the hijackers’ initial presence. Some crew members have also claimed that Phillips probably wanted to be taken hostage and had a death wish, although from what I've researched they didn't really offer any explanation as to why? Because you know... if you're going to publicly perform a character assassination then you really don't need to back up your claims or provide the little things such as evidence and hard-facts. I suppose to defend the film from this, I would highlight two main points... The first is that Captain Phillips is a Paul Greengrass movie and the second is that where film and facts are concerned, who really gives a solitary fuck?

So to address point one I guess we should give some background on Greengrass as a filmmaker. Whereas most directors start their career off by making music videos, short films or bullshitting about sneaking into Hollywood offices, Greengrass began by working for current affairs show World in Action. From here he took his journalistic skills and applied them to drama's that investigated the Gulf War, institutionalised racism within the police-force specifically in regards to the murder of Stephen Lawrence and then most famously Bloody Sunday. From here he got his big budget break and made a couple of Bourne Movies which not only mixed action with the bollocks of bureaucracy but were so good that they even managed to donkeypunch the Bond franchise into a new direction. Perhaps even still though, the biggest proof of both Greengrass's integrity and his huge balls is the 2006 film United 93. A mere five years after the world got even more fucked-up on 9/11 he made a movie that not only dealt with the slightly sensitive subject but that focused predominantly on the hijacked plane that was brought down by the passengers. My point is that if his ability to accurately depict true stories on film was in anyway less than genius, United 93 would have killed his career more effectively than a broken bottle through the eye. Not only did he survive this though but the film went on to huge acclaim with Greengrass receiving the kind of backslapping praise that Michael Bay could only ever achieve if he announced his imminent retirement.

Oh, look! There's another oscar on the horizon!
The second point is, as I said- who really gives a fuck about sticking to the facts in a movie? Despite being a masterpiece, Fargo opens with some text explaining that the film is based on a true story. As it turns out the whole thing is completely fictitious having been made by The Coens who claimed that they couldn't find a true story that was interesting enough and so just made one up instead. Films don't exist to simply report back the facts or to even educate us on the subject that they claim to be about. Their sole purpose it to entertain, to tell stories and perhaps to seek out what Werner Herzog refers to as 'the ecstatic truth'. As it happens though with Captain Phillips, Greengrass actually stands by his version of events having researched the shit out of what went down. By his own admission, he has obviously condensed the events so that what may have taken eight hours now only takes about fifteen minutes. He has also obviously invented dialogue and conversations because there are only so many interviews and so much record reading can help you before you'd need an actual fucking psychic. The film doesn't need to stick to the truth at all if this compromises the quality of the narrative however it seems like Greengrass is fairly happy that what we see is coincidentally still pretty close to the truth. This would therefore surely suggest that the crew who are publicly screaming “bullshit” must have some reason for wanting to discredit the film? If so I can't for the life of me figure out what that reason might be. Although having said that if this film does contradict them and their claims are in fact false, I guess the $50,000,000 law suit that they've filed against their ex-employers would probably get farted into oblivion. So there is that I suppose...

Greengrass makes politically aware films that are rooted in reality and yet never feel preachy, po-faced, miserable and certainly not boring. In fact, if we pretended that this movie was entirely based on fiction you'd still be left with a stunning thriller that explores both the experience of being hijacked and also the desperation of the hijackers. Throughout the story we're treated to the perspectives of all sides involved with the suggestion that in fact the root cause of all evil may predictably be the usual herd of world-fucking, corporate cunts. Hanks gives an extraordinary performance in the lead role although we should probably expect this now since he's played a man with a sniffle in Philadelphia, a fake cowboy in Toy Story and a fish fucker in Splash. Praise should also go to Barkhad Abdi who is the unexperienced actor cast in the role of lead hijacker. Not only did he expertly hold his own against Hanks here but his terrifying performance will ensure that if I'm ever on a boat and a stranger approaches I'm going to kill the fucker straightaway rather than take any chances. If you get past all this mudslinging about the truth then in my humble opinion Captain Phillips is without a doubt one of the best films of the year. Having experienced something as powerful as this, am I really expected to care if some money-hunting cunt tells me it's all based on a load of old shit? I couldn't give two fucks either way and if I'm being honest if you've got any sense then you won't either!

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