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Captain Phillips Blu-ray Review
An exercise in documentary-style tension, Captain Phillips takes us through the true story of a Somali pirate attack which sees the generally calm and professional titular Captain pushed to the brink of physical and mental exhaustion by his oppressors.The story is simple: Phillips’s job is to take a US container ship through pirate-infested waters. One day, the pirates attack, and though, through his resourcefulness and resourcefulness under pressure, he orchestrates his crew into repelling the first wave. However the pirates are far from done with them, particularly since they know that, if they return empty-handed, their lives won’t be worth living. Directed by Paul Greengrass with his usual inimitable documentary flair, Captain Phillips is a solid piece of filmmaking, which puts you right in the middle of a highly dangerous situation, which could explode at any minute. If there’s one difficultly Greengrass never manages to fully overcome, however, it’s the distinct predictability of the plot. Rarely does Captain Phillips not tread precisely where you expect it to tread, and it’s actually only in the improvised final few seconds of the film that we get a glimpse of the true power that the director could have harnessed from both this story and from his cast.The Academy is rarely on the money when it comes to its nominations and subsequent Awards that they dish out, but perhaps Tom Hanks – the most Oscar-friendly Best Actor in Tinseltown – didn’t quite distinguish himself either in this affair. Again, those final few seconds leaves us with the feeling that he was great, but the preceding two-and-a-quarter-hours requires considerably less from him, slow-burning his rise from methodical zero to real-life hero. He's good, but not Oscar-good. It doesn’t help that his oppressors, the Somali pirates, despite the strong debut performances on offer, are never given the rounded-out characterisations that the opening gambit hints at. And once the military hit the decks it’s all over, even with an hour to go. Captain Phillips provides sequences of manufactured high tension which frequently manage to captivate you, but it doesn’t quite bring them all together in a compelling whole, perhaps broadly because of the very documentary style which the director prides himself on. A little less realism, and a little more cinema might have been welcome here.
Captain Phillips Blu-ray Picture QualityCaptain Phillips is the latest title to receive a Mastered in 4K presentation, courtesy of Sony, and it certainly does not disappoint, rendering a fantastically faithful, perfectly pristine representation of the feature, which is basically almost impossible to fault. The 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition rendition is framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen, and looks impeccable. Detail is stunning throughout, providing excellent observation of facial touches – skin textures, pores, practically every strands of hair, and dirt, blood, sweat and tears along the way – and impressive clothing weaves and background textures too, bringing the piece to life with rich authenticity at every stage. All this with not even the slightest hint of a defect – no edge enhancement, no unruly excess DNR application and no significant banding or blocking to impinge upon your viewing pleasure. The gritty stylisation of the piece gives it yet further texture, allowing it to feel suitably filmic at every stage.
The colour scheme is strong and vibrant, packed with deep and vivid – but thoroughly natural – tones, which define the palette and extend all the way through from the deep blue ocean to the bright blue sky; from the healthy skin tones of both the crew and the interlopers alike, to the orange of the escape pod. Black levels are relatively stable, but do fluctuate in certain sequences, appearing to struggle – perhaps understandably – with the requirement to remain deep and enveloping, whilst also allow just the right amount of detail through. Although it might be an indicator that this rendition isn’t quite perfect, I’m pretty sure these sequences – where grain levels had a corresponding level of fluctuation – look faithful towards the original source material, and, given that it’s nigh on perfect, the presentation earns a full 10 score despite this tiny niggle.
This is a terrific video presentation, living up to its Mastered in 4K labelling, and proving to be demo quality through and through.
Captain Phillips Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track proves to be just as impressive, and just as difficult to fault. Dialogue rises above the deluge to remain clear and coherent throughout – whether in desperate shouts and cries, or quieter moments of whispering and introspection – and is more than prepared to dominate the fronts and centre channels where necessary. The score too maintains the tensions, simmering during the quieter moments, building at all the suitable points across the piece, and delivering punch to the more dramatic situations, making it almost impossible to remain calm.
It’s the effects, though, that are a true marvel, impressive both in their subtlety – mostly during the first act’s establishing sequences, which offer up some wonderful atmospheric ambience – and in the sheer power of the latter set-pieces, which sees the Chinese Type 56 AK-47 variants thunder in their inimitably distinctive manner, bullets whizzing around your living room and barely missing their marks; and rushing waves and growling diesel engines suitably smothering the environment. LFE input is welcome and unabashed; surround usage is resoundingly all-encompassing and this is undoubtedly a demo track from start to finish.
Whether or not you loved Captain Phillips, this track is certainly going to make you feel involved in the piece.
Captain Phillips Blu-ray ExtrasThe Audio Commentary with Director Paul Greengrass provides a thoroughly engaging aural accompaniment, offering up informative technical background information which covers all the bases on the production, from the true story to the casting of the main characters; from the debut performances to the heavyweight Hanks; from shooting on water to the fixed container ship location; from his handheld shooting style to the editing process. Although nowhere near as anecdotal as the best all-round commentaries are, this is an excellent offering for fans of the film.
The Documentary – Capturing Captain Phillips – is split into three distinct parts which come together to form over almost exactly an hour of Behind the Scenes material, covering Embarkation – which looks at the Pre-Production: the background research into real-life accounts of piracy, including the true story behind this film, as well as the shooting locations (predominantly the ship) and the rehearsals and training – and then Full Ahead – which covers the early stages of the shoot, giving us day-in-the-life snapshots of filming on water, working and living on the ship, and stunts – rounding off the trio with Stand Fast – which looks at the final act of the film, and shooting the ending unscripted, as well as features input from the real Captain Phillips. Again, much like the Commentary, this is a comprehensive offering, which should satisfy all fans.
Although not brimming with a large quantity of extras, the two provided are comprehensive enough for any and every fan.
Is Captain Phillips Blu-ray Worth BuyingA good film, but a great disc, Captain Phillips is worth watching, not least for the strong central performance from the ever-reliable Tom Hanks, but also for the interesting debut efforts from the fresh new actors who play the Somali pirate attackers. Director Paul Greengrass is on solid form, and turns in one of his most reliably realistic documentary efforts so far, but herein lies the rub: true stories are often hobbled by predictability, and without a more cinematic vision to embellish them, tense drama can soon turn into little more than a prolonged newscast. Captain Phillips thrills in fits and starts but, when you get to the end, you’ll wonder whether it really brought anything new to the table. For my money, A Hijacking delivered the same level of authenticity, but employed cunning tactics to retain unpredictability. Captain Phillips, for all the apparent threat, plays it remarkably safe.
This Region Free UK Blu-ray, delivered with Sony’s Mastered in 4K branding, is superb, and promotes stunning video and exhilarating audio – both of which will no doubt heighten your experience – as well as the equivalent of a boat-load of extras condensed down into two relatively inconspicuous packages: Commentary and Documentary. Fans of the film shouldn’t hesitate in picking this up immediately.
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