Trailer Face-Off: Captain Phillips vs. All Is Lost

Published September 19, 2013

Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Captain Phillips vs. All is Lost, two films featuring peril at sea.

PremiseMan at sea is the most classic iteration of man vs. nature—and there is certainly a reason for it. Captain Phillips tells the true story of the captain of the American Maersk Alabama cargo ship. En route to Kenya, Phillips’ ship is hijacked by Somali pirates and Phillips (Tom Hanks) and his crew must fight for their lives. All is Lost is also a survival film, starring Robert Redford as a man who sets out to sea alone only to become stranded and set adrift on a raft. While a film with only one actor and no dialogue is intriguing, the opportunity to observe some non-fictional political danger in Captain Phillips has caught our attention.Advantage: Captain Phillips

Leading MenTom Hanks and Robert Redford are both veteran actors, with many awards to their names. Having mastered the character of an everyday hero in films from Apollo 13 to Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks will doubtless deliver again in Captain Phillips. At 77, Robert Redford’s still got it, and watching 106 minutes of him alone on screen, sinking into further and further despair and isolation, is a lofty experiment that we’re willing to take a chance on.Advantage: All is Lost

Cast SizeCaptain Phillips includes the captain, crew, and Somali pirates, whose nuanced interactions move the plot memorably beyond vague memories of journalistic coverage four years ago. All is Lost is only Robert Redford, his facial expressions, and hopefully some impressive storms to keep us stimulated.Advantage: Captain Phillips

ThrillsThe trailer for Captain Phillips jumps from one gritty, bass-accompanied scene to the next—mayday calls, shootouts, death threats—which is definitely enough to keep our expressions half-agape. All is Lost carries a looming existential message.Advantage: Captain Phillips

True Story vs. FictionThe conflict between the crew of the Maersk Alabama and the Somali pirates is a manifestation of larger economic and political forces that are relevant today. All is Lost, we imagine, will resonate to some collectively subconscious worry—Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? etc.—that will leave us more disturbed than we bargained for.Advantage: Tie

Significance of the Setting In Captain Phillips, the sea allows the story to float into the kind of isolated anarchy where a motley crew can overcome an American vessel. In All is Lost, the sea itself is a character—an antagonistic force that Robert Redford has to reckon with following a tradition that includes The Odyssey and Moby-Dick.Advantage: All is Lost

Added ValueCaptain Phillips has the advantage of an easy buzzword, as Paul Greengrass, director of the The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum, will be is helming the project. Robert Redford, besides contributing his own occasional expletive, will be sonically accompanied through his tribulations by an original soundtrack written, composed, and produced by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ frontman Alexander Ebert. Not bad at all.Advantage: Tie.

The VerdictWe have to admit it, lately our attention span has been a little short, and sometimes we crave the simple pleasures of the cinema: loud sounds, terse dialogue, and decisive action.Winner: Captain Phillips

Trailer Face-Off runs every Thursday. For more, click here.