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Generally I look for small films that are not in the major theaters. No doubt it is a prejudice about major Hollywood type films. Plus, I know that most of you have access to information about those films. Also, a second prejudice, or problem for me, is that when I see many of the well known actors and/or actresses in a film, I find myself having a problem separating the film from the star.

As with most prejudices, there are some problems with that approach – missing good films, missing good performances, not understanding that the acting is not an impediment to a good film but is integral to it, for starters.

Anyway, all that is a ‘preview’ to mini-reviews today of two major films with major actors that I’ve seen recently and liked very much.

(No spoilers in either of the accounts below.)

 Captain Phillips ****


Tom Hanks stars in this film about a container ship hijacked off the Somali coast and the ensuing events. It is based on a true story and a memoir by the captain of the ship.

Elsewhere on MillersTime, I wrote positively about two other Somali hijacking films, one a documentary, Stolen Seas, and one a fictional account, A Hijacking. This Captain Phillips film fits in with those two and adds some additional dimensions to this phenomenon that seems strange to many people: how can a speedboat with four to eight individuals capture a major ocean going vessel?

What is particularly good about this new film is the story, largely accurate, about the seizure of Maersk Alabama, the first US flagged cargo ship to be hijacked, and what happens as a result. The film, even if you remember the event from 2009 and know the outcome, is nevertheless riveting.

The other good part of the film is the strong performance of Tom Hanks, one of the best of our current actors, tho he does not always seem to choose the best films in which to display his talents nor is he always as good as he is in this film or some of his better ones.

Captain Phillips sent me to read the Richard Philips memoir, A Captain’s Duty, written with and/or told to Stephen Talty. I also have followed some of the controversy about the film and the memoir. But that is for another time. Suffice it to say that if you are concerned if the Captain Phillips on the screen is truth or fiction, truth largely wins out.

If you’re looking for something that will engage you nonstop for a bit more than two hours, put it on your list.

All Is Lost ****1/2


This film is all about Robert Redford (my mother’s ‘secret’ love).

And it is Robert Redford at his best.

For an hour and forty-six minutes, all you see is Redford struggling to survive once his sleek, expensive sailing yacht is rammed, setting off an eight day solo encounter with the sea and an attempt to survive despite enormous odds.

There are no other individuals on the screen for the entire film, just Redford.

And other than a very brief voice over at the beginning, there is no talking for the entire film.

All Redford.

All the time.

Usually I would be distracted by watching such a star, knowing I was watching an actor and not an individual who was in the midst of a life struggle.

But this time the actor and the individual merged into a story that goes beyond watching a terrific performance. Redford’s acting makes the story more than just a man vs nature thriller.

The more I think about All Is Lost, the more I realize it’s one of the better films I’ve seen this year and one of the best ‘man versus overwhelming odds’ films I’ve seen in a long time.

Another one to add to your list.