Movies co-starring the US military with a chance at the Oscars

Tom Hanks, center, stars in Columbia Pictures' "Captain Phillips."


By TOSHIO SUZUKI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 26, 2014

A year after the multi-faceted Oscar buzz of “Zero Dark Thirty,” 2013 produced a few new films with military links and hopes of winning a statue at the 86th Academy Awards.

“Captain Phillips,” nominated for best picture, and “Dirty Wars,” nominated for best feature documentary, both have story lines that involve U.S. intelligence agencies, Special Forces, or both.

Last year’s best picture winner, “Argo,” was based on CIA efforts to safely extract Americans during the Iran hostage crisis that started in 1979. But it was the CIA story about how one agent worked to find and kill Osama bin Laden – in “Zero Dark Thirty” – that led to real-world investigations into how the film’s producers were able to get such accurate and sensitive details about the raid.

Those investigations are still ongoing by the inspector general’s office, according to a recent story from the McClatchy Washington Bureau, and meanwhile the Hollywood brand of ‘based on a true story’ filmmaking never stops.

“Captain Phillips,” starring Tom Hanks as the captain of an American shipping vessel and newcomer Barkhad Abdi as a Somali pirate, tells the story of an April 2009 hijacking that eventually led to the involvement of the U.S. Navy and a SEAL team.

While piracy off African waters is still a factor for ships – especially in new areas like the Gulf of Guinea – incidents of maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia are at a six-year low, according to the International Maritime Bureau this month.

“Captain Phillips” is nominated for best picture, best actor in a supporting role (Barkhad Abdi), film editing, sound editing, sound mixing and writing (adapted screenplay).

Last year, a best documentary feature nomination for “The Invisible War” helped increase the awareness of rape and sexual assaults in the U.S. military. This year, the hot-button U.S. military topics of covert operations and drone strikes are covered in Richard Rowley’s “Dirty Wars.”

The documentary, based on the reporting and writing from Jeremy Scahill, delves into the secrecy behind kill lists and how attacks are conducted.

And in case there wasn’t enough action in the previous two films, Peter Berg’s “Lone Survivor” showed audiences the determination one Navy SEAL team had in Afghanistan when their 2005 mission went all wrong.

Based on Marcus Luttrell’s memoir, “Lone Survivor” stars some big names, like Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch and Eric Bana, and picked up nominations for sound editing and sound mixing.

Catch all the winners during the Oscars, airing live on ABC March 2, starting at 7 p.m. ET.

Twitter: @ToshJohn

"Captain Phillips," directed by Paul Greengrass, made use of improvisation in many of its scenes, which was a challenge for some of the actors who were less used to this "off-script" technique.

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