Captain Phillips: New York Film Festival

When the 51st annual New York Film Festival kicked off with the world premiere of “Captain Phillips” Sept. 27, NYFF opening nighters became the first big crowd to get a look at the Paul Greengrass drama starring Tom Hanks.

What’d they think? Come on, this is New York. There were as many opinions as there were festivalgoers. But overall, buzz was strong.

The Columbia Pictures film follows the real-life story of an American captain (played by Hanks) and his crew hijacked by Somali pirates, and a significant chunk of it takes place in a claustrophobic lifeboat where Phillips is alone with his captors. That trapped-at-sea theme echoed the subject of last year’s NYFF opener, “Life of Pi” — not to mention “All is Lost,” the J.C. Chandor film that’s also on the NYFF slate this year.

“We are moving ever so slowly toward a film festival in which we feature only movies about a lonely man in a boat facing a life or death situation,” cracked Ann Tenenbaum, the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s board chair, just before the screening at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.

At the post-screening party at the Harvard Club, most everyone agreed the suspenseful pic was masterfully directed — even the ones who took issue with some of the dialogue, which they found clunky. Some moviegoers got very rah-rah-America about it; others fell on the opposite end of that spectrum. And everyone came away talking about the emotional last ten minutes.

And then there were the revelers who didn’t catch the movie but turned out for NYFF opening night party anyway. Anne Chaisson, the exec director of the Hamptons Intl. Film Festival, couldn’t make the screening but took a jitney that got her into Gotham at 10:45 for the 11:00pm shindig, which she didn’t want to miss. “It’s the indie prom,” she said.

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