At the Movies: Captain Phillips

Paul Greengrass has a talent for making good films that make me sick.

The director is well-known for his use of the hand-held camera technique which lets the action on-screen appear with all the herky-jerky motion of real life. This method is also known as “shaky cam” or “queasy cam” — and with good reason.

I am well-known for having low tolerance for shaky cam. I hate it. Nothing ruins a movie like the feeling you may hurl at any moment. And then you get hot and sweaty for no reason.

The first Greengrass film that made me ill, and I believe it made me the sickest, was “Bloody Sunday,” a movie about the violence in Northern Ireland. Boy, was that unpleasant. Then he made the Bourne movies, which combined shaky cam with fast cuts and other edits that made many of the action scenes real stomach-turners. I don’t remember if “United 93” made me sick but I don’t want to watch it again to find out. (This experience doesn’t affect me when watching movies on television. One of the benefits of not be able to afford a giant home theater, I guess.)

captain-phillips-movie-poster-2Which brings us, at long last, to “Captain Phillips.” Based on the true story of merchant marine Captain Richard Phillips, it’s a Paul Greengrass action-thriller where everything takes place on the open sea.

I should have known better. I really have no one to blame but myself. Does Dramamine work at the movies?

OK, time to make this not about me for a few paragraphs. The year is 2009 and Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) is in charge of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama as it navigates the dangerous waters near Somalia in 2009.

The ship is set upon by a ragtag group of Somali pirates who manage to board the ship on their second attempt. Things go awry for the quartet of pirates and they wind up having to leave in a small lifeboat, but not before taking Phillips hostage. Now the pirates are in a race to reach land before the U.S. Navy cuts them off.

“Captain Phillips” is a tense, gripping thriller with another superb performance by Tom Hanks. Equally impressive is Barkhad Abdi as Muse, the leader of the pirates. All the actors do fine work.

Greengrass does a convincing job of making you feel like you are right there, from the tense moments as the pirates board the ship to the claustrophobia of being trapped in the lifeboat. It’s very convincing. Too convincing, I might add, which brings us back around to my original point.

“Captain Phillips” is a great movie — if you’ve got the stomach for it. If you’re the type of person who is easily afflicted by motion sickness when watching movies with heavy use of shaky cam, be prepared. What made matters worse with this movie is that usually when confronted with this feeling I close my eyes and listen to the movie, but when you’re dealing with a film that uses a lot of subtitles that’s a problem.

Still, that’s my problem. Hopefully it’s not yours.



19 responses to “At the Movies: Captain Phillips

  1. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one. Great movie, but it made me sick for about 5 hours afterward. I hate the shaky cam.

  2. My daughter loved the movie, but was terribly sick with motion sickness. Other people on the way out of theatre had commented on how nauseated they were feeling as well.

  3. We had to leave the theater about a third of the way through the movie…my adult daughter and I were both incredibly nauseous and sweating. I was shocked as I’ve never had that happen to me before. I wish I could’ve stayed. The movie very good, but i seriously almost passed out from queasiness.

  4. I was so excited to finally see a movie with my husband! However, I too had to leave within the first hour of the film. I sat out in the hallway and listened to it while sipping my large cup ‘o Sprite. Ugh! I was so sick. That has never happened to me. At least I could hear what was going on. I could still tell that Hanks did a fabulous job.

  5. I had to leave after a half hour because I threw up. I don’t know if the movie was good or not.

  6. Me too! The film made me very ill!

  7. I am so sick now… so so sick… regret watching this movie! it doesn’t mean the movie is bad, but I just couldn’t finish watching it, too bad.

  8. Thank you! I thought there was something wrong with me. I wonder if watching it on your own TV would help – i couldn’t watch after half of it, missed most of it and still feel sick a day later. Is there a cure?

  9. Me too, felt sick and giddy very early in movie, kept my eyes closed throughout. felt ill for 24 hours, needed travel sickness pills to make me feel better.

  10. I had to leave halfway through due to motion sickness. Had to leave United 93 as well… Blair Witch Project, 13, the Bourne movies–all ruined for me due to shaky cam! As others have stated I was sick several hours after watching not even half this movie–a total waste of money! I will never attend another film by this director! Watching films like this on a smaller screen (a laptop for instance) is a bit more tolerable for me, but still… I don’t think this makes movies any more realistic as some have claimed… I wish it would stop!

  11. I agree – movie totally wrecked for me by very unpleasant motion sickness – really too – why isn’t there a warning like there is for strobe lighting? I read about the tension in the film but I was just so desperate for it to finish that I didn’t care what happened. I could watch 93 but this made me ill for a few days afterwards – Captain Phillips was the opposite – felt ill throughout the film and could only listen but am OK next day.

  12. Well I’m going to show this movie review and the comments to my family who thought I was the only person in the world to get seasick watching a movie. I had to sit through most of it with my eyes shut as I felt ill after about 20 minutes and couldn’t watch most of the lifeboat shenanigans or I would have been sick! I felt ill for the rest of the evening and I thought it was because I had sinusitis but realise that it was the movie. Wish I’d read this review first because I would have taken some seasick pills before watching it.

    • Do sea sick pills work for movies? What do you take? I had to copy the review and show it to my family too – no one understood!

  13. So glad to learn I am not the only one – sure, I’m susceptible to seasickness but never in a film. Puked in the parking lot afterwards, but sat through the whole film. Will suggest to others they watch on a small screen.

  14. Christine LeBlanc

    Fantastic movie!!! I was thrilled to finally get out with my husband to see a movie without the kids for a change. About 40 minutes into it I became so sick…sweating, heart racing and nausea. It felt like someone punched me in the stomach and I felt like I was going to die. I had my popcorn bag ready just in case. It lasted the whole movie and I actually thought I had come down with a virus til it disapeared about 2 hours after the movie ended. I have been on real boats and NEVER had sea sickness before. This was insane how much and how fast it hit me. I didn’t think I’d make it through til the end but I forced myself, I walked out pale, with chills (after the sweats subsided.) Such a good movie but may be easier to stomach on a tv rather than lwrge screen:-(

  15. I would like to say this was a good movie but I have to say I only saw the first half. I have always experienced motion sickness pretty easily. Until recently I had never experienced it in a movie. Had to leave before I tossed my cookies. Hollywood, stop with the queasy cam!

  16. I just watched the movie and I felt sick and nauseated while watching it!! It was weired that’s why I decid to find if someone ales felt the same! And Im glad that I was not the only one😁 To be honest I couldn’t enjoy the movie I wish this shaky cam technic was not used

  17. Just saw Captain Phillips today… or, I should say I tried to watch it. I felt like such a freak leaving 30 minutes in after feeling like I’d eaten bad scallops last night. Thank you for this post. I am so relieved to know that I am not alone! (and to know what that style of filming is called and which director to avoid!)

  18. About an hour in, I had to run out to the restroom because the burrito I had came back up, all of it 😦 I’m relieved to know it’s not just me. Wish theaters could put a warning label!

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