Most kidnapping melodramas have final scenes — after their climaxes — that are, effectively, throwaways. There are sighs of relief, tearful reunions with families, cameras that dolly back on domestic tableaux to suggest the world has at last been righted.
I think it's telling that in Captain Phillips the most overwhelming scene is after the resolution, in the infirmary of a ship. So much terror and moral confusion has gone down — so much pain — that the cumulative tension can't be resolved by violence. The movie's grip remains strong even when it cuts to black.
"Her days were days of flesh." That's just one of a multitude of striking observations that Jill Lepore makes about Jane Franklin, the baby sister of Ben. What Lepore means by that line of near-poetry is that Jane Franklin's life, beginning at age 17 when she gave birth to the first of her 12 children, was one of nursing, lugging pails of night soil, butchering chickens, cooking and scrubbing.
Jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal started playing when he was 3 years old in Pittsburgh, which means he's now been playing for 80 years. His new album, Saturday Morning, often recalls his elegant trios of yesteryear, with its tightly synchronized arrangements, plenty of open space and deceptively simple charm.
President Obama speaks at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline in Cushing, Okla., in March 2012.
Credit Tom Pennington / Getty Images
Thousands of protesters gather on the National Mall in Washington in February 2013 calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada and act to limit carbon pollution from power plants.
Credit Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
A road near the proposed route for the Keystone XL pipeline several miles north of Neligh, Neb. After its original route through the Nebraska sand hills was blocked, Calgary-based TransCanada submitted to Nebraska environmental officials a preferred alternative route that runs north of Neligh.
Journalist Ryan Lizza says there's one far-reaching, controversial issue President Obama will soon get to decide all by himself, without having to ask Congress. He alone can approve or reject construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, designed to take heavy crude oil extracted from Alberta, Canada, through America's heartland to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
Elizabeth Smart has the kind of fame no one would want: In the summer of 2002, at the age of 14, she became one of the nation's most famous kidnap victims when she was abducted from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, where she lived with her devout Mormon family.
Her kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell, saw himself as a religious prophet and took her to be his second wife in a polygamous marriage. With a knife at her throat, Mitchell forced her to go with him to his remote camp on a mountain near Salt Lake, where they lived during the first stage of her nine-month captivity.
Geography is destiny in Jhumpa Lahiri's new novel, The Lowland. Her title refers to a marshy stretch of land between two ponds in a Calcutta neighborhood where two very close brothers grow up. In monsoon season, the marsh floods and the ponds combine; in summer, the floodwater evaporates. You don't need your decoder ring to figure out that the two ponds symbolize the two brothers — at times separate; at other times inseparable. But there's still more meaning lurking in this rich landscape.
Prior to filming, director Paul Greengrass kept the pirate crew and the boat crew separate to make the hijacking scenes feel more authentic. "The hair did stand up on the back of our heads," says Tom Hanks, above.
Credit Hopper Stone, SMPSP
Director Paul Greengrass says he thought the film would feel more authentic if it was all shot at sea. He had personal motivations, too: "My father was in the Merchant Marine and was at sea all his life so I wanted to explore his world," he says.
Credit Jasin Boland / Columbia Pictures Industries
Greengrass says it was important to him to find young Somali actors to play the part of the pirates. He held auditions in Minneapolis -- where there is a large Somali community -- and hundreds of actors showed up.
In April 2009, Somali pirates boarded an American-flagged container ship and took its captain, Richard Phillips, hostage on a small lifeboat. That led to a five-day drama at sea, much of it covered on television, as a U.S. Navy destroyer tailed the lifeboat and Navy SEAL sharpshooters eventually freed the captain. In 2010 Phillips wrote a memoir called A Captain's Duty and the harrowing experience has now been adapted into a film called Captain Phillips.