Monday, 10 March 2014

Thoughts on haircolour for int. women's day

Currently I'm deciding between staying dark/darker or going back to a more natural blonde shade. But the problem is, the dilemma (which should be simple, unimportant decision) brings multi- faceted problems with it.

I've always been blonde, and being Scandinavian; it was the most natural thing to be for me. Not until I moved to the UK did I realise the divided opinions people have with something as small as the colour of your strands.

Suddenly, people turned their heads on the street to look at me. They called out. Nodding, leering, smiling. At first I was slightly alarmed; in Norway it's considered really rude to call after people, and the men there wouldn't dream of it unless stupendously drunk, and I imagine, hardly expect more than a middle finger or a shake of the head in response.

Here, it's different.

"Oi - blondie!" (Yes, genius? What do you want me to reply? Oi, grey-ie? Oi, douchebag?)
"Nice ass!"
"I like your tits!"
"Sit on my face, love?"
"Smile, it aint all that bad".
"HEY! Whooooo!"
"Hello, princess."
"Do you such cock?"

This is just a small selection of the day-to-day comments you receive as a blonde, young female. If you ignore them, they shout more. You're "aloof" or " think you're above it. The best way to get them to shut up is to smile shyly and look away, as if you're flattered, but embarrassed by the shower of attention, when really; your blood boils and you want to hit them back with outrage that they feel entitled to comment on your looks - because you've chosen a hair colour you yourself like.

I loved my blonde hair. It's part of my identity. I dyed it dark last year to try something new-  and didn't expect such a torrent of change.

My stepfather's first comment:

"Well- you look more ordinary now. You don't stand out."

Most male friends:

"You look a LOT better with it that way."

Castings as an actress:

From being cast as various forms of daft bimbo; now I get "Mysterious, intelligent, cool, tough".

On the street?

Not a word. Maybe, once in a while "You look nice."

Brunette: Respect. Smart. Someone you can take home to your parents.
Blonde: Fuckable.

Gentlemen, you gotta do better. I want to pick a hair colour without having to consider abuse, and a total change of casting type, just because I fancy some change for spring.

Friday, 3 January 2014

SHA Wellness Clinic and La Crisalida Spa review

Having deposited the dog at his parents, The Englishman and I needed some rest after 2013. So we opted for a speed detox of two different resorts over two different days. One is posh and pricey, the other a low- key juice detox hippie affair.


Sha markets itself as a clinic, not a spa. They have doctors on site, state-of-the art facilities where no expense has been spared and programs to detox, lose weight, sort stomach issues, beauty issues and stop smoking. We opted for their "Couples Day" (at €390), which was, believe it or not, the cheapest option.

For this price, we were going to get:

1 x hour massage of choice (Website spoke of choice between Thai, Swedish, Deep tissue, aroma)
Full use of spa facilities
30 minute of oxygen
3- course healthy gourmet meal with natural cocktail

The facilities are indeed impressive as you walk in, immediately more so for us since it's 3 minutes walk from my aunt's house. Tinkling waterfalls, panoramic views, smooth white and chrome surfaces and the telltale sign of wealth; in-house jewellery shops.

The impression comes to a rapid halt though, as the receptions staff's English is more than a little limited. In fact, I got the impression the lady we spoke to understood less than nothing other than "secret number pliz" for putting in card details. As we were having some trouble with our banks/cards (One being continually difficult the minute we pop abroad, which is often, and the other being closed over the entirety of Christmas with no option of reaching them) we needed some help. After a while, a male, bleach- toothed, tanned, skinny apparition descended (or shall I say condescended). They were patient, but with an air of being ready to immediately throw us out should this prove difficult, (Scoundrels, not even wearing Versace, surely their cards contain less the worth of one of my teeth) and understood little of what the issue was, though nodding gravely every step of the way.

As we stood there, an elderly German lady marched up to the front desk and demanded to speak with MBTS(male bleach skinny tooth). She was outraged. It was 1.30, 1.30 and NO ONE had cleaned her room. She could simply not live in such a dreadful MESS. She was paying for this, and she just couldn't LIVE like this. MBTS made soothing noises and spoke rapidly on the phone in Spanish.

When we finally had spoken to the banks and assured them we had not stolen our cards and were about to commit credit card fraud in Spain, with much stress and 1% battery on The Englishman's phone, we managed to sort out payment and were shown the "program."
The program started at 5.30, and lasted until 9pm. Despite the lady's assurances on the phone to me in the uk, that we could enter when we pleased to use the Spa. (Couple's DAY, anyone?)
Luckily, the lady at the desk saw the expression in my eyes, for we were then granted access to what increasingly seemed like fort knox.

The robes and towels were plush, the spa, sauna, steam room and hot beds fabulous. Except the jets in the foot massagers were not working, and the pool was inexplicably built in such a way as to block any kind of swimming, by slapping bubble jet "stations" in the middle in addition to either end.

The only other patrons seemed to be bloated pale, lonely german or british people. Most, if not all, were sat alone, none looked remotely happy.

The "Oxygen Bar" was a contraption similar to a water dispenser, only hooks up to a person by the standard plastic tube in your nose, something I'd expected they'd make a little more delicate and comfortable. Oxygen is good for a number of things, and it did feel good. But a bit of lukewarm tea and the bubbling of the apparatus felt a bit of a let-down. Again, the only customer other than ourselves was one lonely patron, spilling out of her robe, sourly staring into thin air. I was beginning to wonder what people here were fed - or not.

We couldn't push our massages forward, so we went in search of a snack. (We'd arrived at 2pm and dinner was at 8.30, so we assumed we'd be able to get some nuts, fruit or similar in such a healthy establishment.)
This proved an impossible task. The nice ladies at the spa said we could go to the bar on the third floor and order some, but on our way we ran into Skinny Tooth Bleach, who assured us that there was no way we could go up to the bar. We must have misunderstood. We then asked if it was possible to find some form of small nourishment before 8.30. We were directed to the shiny shopfront in the reception area, which sells vitamins, algae nutrients, detox powders and similar- and were offered 35 grams of sesame crackers for €6. We politely declined, and decided to take it as a fast.

A relaxing hour in the spa again, before realising we were almost too late for our massages!

We were met by Camp Skinny Tooth Bleach, presumably the receptionist's brother, who was Nate's massager. Mine was a gentle- sounding, ponytailed individual who spoke absolutely zero English.

We managed to glean from our mismatched communication that, there wasn't a choice of massages after all, just different forms of pressure. I said medium, which he must have interpreted as "feathery-light sexual touch." Hey, nothing against a bit of Spanish touch-up, but he did pull those papery knickers well far down. The Englishman was very happy with his massage, but had a similarly erotic - feeling experience, and less welcome than mine.

By this point we were very excited indeed about dinner, so went about a change of clothes.
The restaurant, on the top floor, is spectacular. Glass, chrome, wood and panoramic views complement rock pools and flowers, and the now empty in wintertime, sun deck and outdoor pool greeted is with chilly excellence.
We were warmly greeted (after a bit of a wait), though there were at the most ten people in the restaurant. They had prepared the best table for us, which was very kind, but not unremarkable as we were the only couple in residence.
The "natural cocktail" was more fitting for an after-dinner aperitivo, I though, as it was heavily slathered with mint, a taste I find hard to combine with eating. But very refreshing.
The starter, soon to be the star of the meal, was a herring-based "sandwich", encircled in wholemeal pastry and enriched with a light, yogurt-based cream. Though difficult to penetrate, this was delicious.
The next dish was presented in a hot dome, removed with great panache, to reveal some squash, mushroom and broccoli with a broccoli sauce. Perfectly cooked and tasty, but in all honesty, a side dish. We were glad to discover there was another -  a tiny piece of fish with a chilli-infused sweet potato mash. To finish, a "pumpkin" pie with cinnamon ice cream, both probably sweetened with agave. I love agave, but it was a bit weak tasting here- the ice cream was watery and the pumpkin just a whisper. The pastry shell was wholemeal and nicely crusty, but far too thick. (I'm sounding more and more like a dispirited London restaurant reviewer, too long in the tooth :)

We thought it was very small, but we were actually full, and a nice discovery that with small meals, eaten slowly, our stomachs were actually happy. Proved how quickly and wrongly we usually eat.
To finish, we were given a delicious hot apple drink, thickened with a japanese gum paste usually reserved for baking, which gave the drink a gooey, silky, amazing texture. We were advised that one was fine, but two or three would make "toilet difficult in the morning." Ok, then.

On that glorious note, we said farewell to SHA for now.

The expression that springs to mind is "All for show and little underneath." Quasi-hospital, Quasi- spa, not quite either and with an attitude to match, I wouldn't really recommend it, unless you crave alone time and can afford one of their 2-week life- turn- around- programs. I do think they do turn people around though, as you can't do anything but, with such food and all the expensive concoctions available.

Personally, I'll saunter down to the detox down the road- La Crisalida, where we got a guided beach walk, yoga class, trampoline class, three full vegan meals (all home made) and fresh juices, a life-purpose class and free dvd's, plus rather lovely company, for €45 each. The people there boasted a weight loss of 7lbs after 2 days. I believe them. Crisalida is run by the lovely John and Lisa, who know all about busy city life, and the need to rejuvenate. And they're lovely!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Homemade marshmallow madness...

These are so awesome you might have to take a second out of your day to appreciate it. That's totally ok.

I thought about what the most christmassy flavour I could do for marshmallows would be. Snowy coconut? Cinnamon? Spiced rum? (Might do the latter, come to think of it). I landed on TERRY'S CHOCOLATE ORANGE!

I bloody love chocolate oranges. So these are Kat's CHOCOLATE ORANGE MARSHMALLOWS.

And the domestication is complete.

They are actually super easy, but you need to make sure you've got your head present and screwed on at the moment of pouring hot syrup and pouring into the pan, or you risk the mixture cooling and not fluffing, or a sticky mess.

Adapted from Fuji Mama blog.

2 cups (just under 5dl) sugar
1 dl cocoa powder (plus more for dusting mix)
6dl water, divided in 3 (I substitute 2 dl with fresh squeezed orange juice)
1dl honey or corn syrup(or any other light sugar syrup)
orange zest

Boil 2 dl orange juice and pour in cocoa, whisk until smooth. It'll be thick. Put aside.
Add sugar, syrup and 1 1/2 dl water to a thick bottom pan. Boil for about 6 minutes, until hard crack stage (test with cold water, as with caramel)
In the mean time, soak 8 sheets of gelatine(or 3 packets) in 1 dl water, until plump and moist. Best to do this in the mixer you'll use.

When the sugar syrup is ready, pour it in a thin stream onto the gelatine, whilst having the machine whisk on medium speed. Continue until you've used all the sugar syrup, then increase the speed a little and let it fluff for about 12 minutes. The syrup will change colour to a bright white and become "marshmallow fluff."
Add the cocoa/orange mixture, and at this point also add a pinch of salt, vanilla and orange zest of desired. Whisk another 3 minutes. The mix will come down a little.

Prepare a pan, lightly greased and dusted with icing sugar and cocoa. Pour the mix quickly into the pan (20 x25 cm), use a spatula to get it all out. It's sticky - don't get it on your fingers or you'll be playing with string the rest of the night!

 Licking the bowl is not optional. It's necessary.
Let the mallows set for 6 hours or overnight, then use a greased knife to cut, dust in some more cocoa+icing sugar (or cornstarch).

EAT. Or give away for Christmas with pretty ribbons.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Yuletide. Stress. Puppy.

So the presents are wrapped, puppy is sleeping and almost finished with Christmas baking. 
The 300 things I need to finish writing by tomorrow can wait...

I'm REALLY trying to de- stress. I don't know if this is a common problem, but I seem to get far too angry at the world and things I can do nothing to change (slow traffic lights, poor customer service, rain...) and I need to discover some zen. Pilates and a puppy is helping, but might need some professional insight here. Running a company is a 24/7 affair, and not exactly one that pays every one of those hours. Yet!

Speaking of companies though, the Englishman's co-owned cake companies with two of Borough Market's best bakers is storming along; they are now supplying "Bill's" restaurants nationwide. Bill's is a superb deli with over 30 branches in the UK. You'll see their brownies and soon other cakes too.

Talking of baking, so far I've made 


The Apple cider caramels are the same recipe as last year with one important modification:

Boil a bottle of quality apple cider until it's reduced to about 1/3 (about 20-25 min), then add sugar, vanilla and butter and dissolve, add cream, and boil. I don't use a candy thermometer, I do the old fashioned cold water bath. Drop a small amount in after 5 minutes; if it dissolves it's too early, if it gels into a soft ball it's perfect, or keep going for a minute or two, then the ball formed gets a hard crack surface. This is Crack stage; you'll get a Daim bar like texture. I prefer caramel, but I did a minute too long and got Daim this time!


These are meant to be a crossiant shape. I am unfortunately not skilled in the area of yeast dough shaping and utterly failed, so after three dog-poo like(though everything looks that way to me now) structures, I made regular buns. This is my grandma's recipe. It's awesome.

125g butter
2 1/2 dl cold milk.
40g yeast
1 egg
1 dl sugar
550g white flour

Melt butter with milk, sprinkle in yeast with a bit of the sugar. Leave and cover for 15 min. Add eggs and sugar, flour last. Work for 5 min or until smooth. Cover and leave in warm place for 1 hour.

Filling: 50g almonds (I used 100)
1dl sugar
1/2 egg (I used 1)

Whiz filling in mixer.

Work dough on a floured surface, shape into buns or crossiants with a big teaspoon of filling each.
 200 degrees for 15 min. I filled two with cider caramels. UMMMMM.


This was mine and my mum's favourite. They're great warm, even better cold.

Equal parts butter and chocolate (200g for big recipe)
Double amount of icing sugar(so 400g for big recipe)
1 egg
Digestive bisquits (or Kavring if you're Scandinavian!)
Dessicated coconut

Melt buttar and sugar. Sift in icing sugar little by little until smooth. You need more than you think. Add egg at the end to make it smooth glossy and make it "let go" of the bowl. Crush Digestive bisquits inside a plastic bag (this is fun) and add liberally to the mix. Even if the mix has separated it'll come back together now!

Shape little balls and roll in coconut. Eat at least every other ball. Enjoy!

My other Xmas activity has been stitching. I know. I know. Those of you who know me might think the real Kat has been abducted by aliens. What's next? Wiping up poo after a puppy? Uh...

No, but we're back to stress again. I found it soothing. And it made me spend infinitely less time in front of a laptop(Though I should have been writing, as always.)

Some of you might see these in your presents, so I can only reveal The Englishman's one:

Yeah, you had to be there. And I know it's squashed. The stitching I mean. Har har.

They're regular cross stitch, easiest kind. But hours of fun!

In other news, we have a puppy. Not sure you noticed? 

I melt hearts for a living. No seriously. You can't even take me for a walk. Damn I'm good looking.

I've never had a dog, so I find Willow deeply fascinating. Dogs are so in tune with body language, and human's particularly. I delight in how much she understands (And despair when she doesn't, of course). She's a sweet- tempered, 3-month old Dachsador (pedigree mini dachshund x chocolate labrador). Notice her big labrador paws on those little legs? Vet doesn't think she'll grow very large. Also said she's very healthy and will suffer less health probs than Dachshunds who are prone to back problems and Lab's hip dysplasia. 

 What do you mean, mess on floor? Could't have been me. Look at this face and say it was me.


She's kept us awake at night, but has now learnt that we're not going anywhere, and goes to bed in the lounge by herself. Only wakes me up if she wants to go outside, which I appreciate. She has now taken a liking to sleeping in (though my previous idea of sleeping in was 11, but heck, 9 will do)

The only thing is she hates being left by herself. She tried digging through the carpet by the door last time. An hour or two she's ok, but longer and she freaks out. And she still prefers walking with me wherever I go. But - she is a baby, I suppose. And sure she is, cause I've just ranted on for 2 pages about her. And posted statuses about poo. How we do change - though actually, I think she's just the perfect antitheses to the stress we go through. It's hard to feel nail- bitingly stressed when you stroll in the park and she cases as squirrel with the glee of a newborn.

Here's to a peaceful Christmas to you all - in the new year there will be tremendously exciting updates from Redeeming Features, so stay tuned - and thank y'all so much for the support in 2013. It's been a blast.

K x

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Fotballfrue, a discussion.

Keeping this in English for my international readers. For those unfamiliar, this is my comment (though unasked for) on the recent hollaballoo around "Fotballfrue's" (Norway's no.1 blogger a well-known WAG.) 4-days-after-birth Instagram pics.

Now, not being much of an Instagrammer myself, partially if not wholly loathing the whole selfie unashamedselfie gymselfie instalove instapic instaicouldntgiveaflyingfuck 
hashtaggingmakesitok,   So I might not be entirely entitled to an opinion. But as it's all out there online, much like my stuff, and being a shameless self promoter myself with a very recent past of several lightly dressed modelling photos plastered over my various social media, I think I can say what I think - you leave yourself open, people will have an opinion.

Which is what Caroline ( is getting.
For those not in the know, Caroline Berg Eriksen, Norway's no.1 blogger and WAG, is perfect. At everything. No, really.

She is articulate. Smart. Educated. Like most Norwegian women. She's a good writer, a totally decent product/scenario photographer, a great interior designer, organiser, fashion adviser, an amazingly dedicated exerciser, wedding planner, wife, now mother, and of course, she's staggeringly attractive.

Reading her blog is like a soft pink descent into a pretty, perfect, rich, pampered world. Her football playing hubby is perfect, loving and totally devoted(though he did at one point say Beyonce was 20kg overweight, later apologised for by his publicist, sorry, ahem, by him)

They go on expensive holidays, eat amazing food and go to all the best parties. Their diet of Low Carb High Fat is infamous but seems to work very well for them. Their wedding was perfect and featured in several prestigious wedding magazines, a three-day, hideously expensive affair, her pregnancy was perfect; at 8 months she simply looked like she'd overeaten her low-carb tacos a little. Her athlete- style exersise-regime has kept her in firm shape, along with the super expensive oils, creams and products she gets for free for blogging about them.

The other day a photo appeared on her Instagram of how "empty" she felt after the pregnancy with her daughter. The photo was one of her looking about 7st(45kg) thin, with stone hard abs, milk-filled jugs neatly tucked into a sexy nursing bra. 4 days after the baby came out.

Now, of course, we are all impressed as hell. I'm somewhat of a body nazi myself. I don't let my diet slip or let myself get any fatter - BUT- I do have cake. With real sugar. And wine. I've tried the no-sugar diet too, and all I can say for it is it's great if you're training for a shoot or a premiere. Otherwise - yuck. I used to be like her, pounding away on the treadmill for hours, until I reduced my excersise to having a life outside it. I enjoy martial arts, dancing, Pilates, Yoga and swimming. The emphasis is on enjoy.

I'm sure she enjoys it however, mostly, and the fab body it affords her. To me though, the whole thing just seems amusing. I'm not sure about you, but I really love reading about real people. With real problems. I'm not worried for Caroline- she does well and chooses the perfect bits to blog about - but I am worried for her readers. The image presented is one of total perfection. Norwegian women, and many other nationalities as well, struggle with "good girl" syndrome. We want to be a perfect girlfriend, mother, friend, with amazing careers and still being totally hot whilst baking cakes for your 4-year - old and training your dog, preferably at the same time.
There is nothing in Fotballfrues blog about fighting with her perfect husband. If she's ever lonely. If she feels anyone is exploiting her. There is nothing about the frustrations of life; no long phone calls to energy companies, no trudging in the rain, no missing trains, no death. Nothing about the birth, the pain, the blood - just perfect pictures of the little one, all washed and wrapped in a soft blanket, and her, perfectly styled, on the way home.

There are plenty of blogs to do with that though. We could go to those instead if we wish to see some struggle and humour. We LIKE reading about perfect. We feed it. "She's done it", we think. She's rich, smart, organised, successful and glamorous at all times. It's addictive, reading about the life we think we all want.

I agree that not every mother needs to sit with bursting tits, crooning over the baby and ignoring her wasted body, stitches itching and wailing over the virtues of being stay-at-home and forgetting about sex. But that's not what this is about.

Am I just a drama queen or a little devil for wanting to see the tears, the struggle, the day that went wrong? I mean, other than some napkins not arriving or her hair appointment being moved?

She presents the pink side. The side of life we all want the most of. But don't the lows make you feel the highs stronger? And wouldn't we all react better to someone who presents themselves as human?

Her readers either hate her, are jealous or nasty in their speculations (too posh to push, husband only loves her if she's skinny etc) or they are totally devoted. And I wonder about the devotees - if you genuinely think her life has no faults, and you want that for yourself, you'll be disappointed that life isn't like on her blog. If she's just an inspiration - fair enough I suppose. If you're young and impressionable and already have body issues- steer for the love of god clear. Let it be said she does NOT advocate eating disorders or any such thing, but she must surely know with the level of perfection she presents, young readers are bound to feel just wasteful, ugly, fat and rubbish in her wake. I wonder how her friends feel. It's almost comical, the photos of her in a group; where other people actually have to endure things like a spot, a hair our of place, sagging posture, a bad ponytail.
She beams in her glowy perfection next to them. Must be a strange feeling.

I don't think it's strange she put the photo out. After all, that's what she's done all along. I do think it's extremely self loving and doesn't, let's be honest, say much more than "Look how perfect I am, not even birth can rob me of my perfection, always remember I am so much better than the rest of you."Be honest, Caroline. At least say "Look how quickly I got back into shape, isn't it amazing how much my extreme regime pays off??" Not "Ohh I feel so empty, that's totally why I posted this."
Let's not make any bones about this - that's the only readon ANY of us put photos out, sarcasm or no. We like it when we look good. We've done well. We didn't fuck up.
But I don't think we as readers should howl about it- what did you expect? With such a tiny little bump and perfectly toned abs sans any extra fat, that's what was gonna happen. If you want it, get working... but don't imagine life will be as she presents it.

And I'd still love to see her in a red sniffly mess, makeup-less, screaming "WHY? WHY??" at her most annoying family member (although of course she doesn't have one) whilst crushing her phone and descending into a bipolar mess, raining Novocaine and and paracetamol fizzing into her low carb soft drink.

It would just make her just a little more like the rest of us.

Monday, 18 November 2013

London life: A letter to my second attacker

I'm from a very small town in a small country, and can never quite shake the feeling that I should be able to walk where I want, when I want, without some malintent swine trying to rob my belongings or dignity. For the second time, I've been reminded that city life demands more vigilance.

You struck at 10.38 in the middle of the Blackheath. You knew it was darkest in the middle of the footpath, far enough away from the pubs, restaurants and roads. You saw a girl on her own with a big bag, heading up there alone on her way home, and you thought: Easy target. Your plan was to grab my phone as I was chatting into it, and preferably my bag as well.
You wanted a quick profit; gambling on my fear, slight stature and being a woman on my own, you thought you'd follow me quietly, then run up and intimidate me enough to give up what I had, or tear it away from me and run.

You didn't know this had happened to me before, so I turned when I heard your steps and saw what you intended.

You didn't know I've trained enough martial arts in my time to see, even in the dark, that you didn't carry a weapon, and drew the conclusion you thus didn't have one, or you would have pointed it at me and taken whatever you wanted.

You didn't know the last time I was attacked, I had to fight not to lose my dignity and safety. Fighting for my bag was a lot easier.

You still scared me. I was probably stupid to fight. To make sure I was safe, I should have given up my things on the assumption you were dangerous. You also frightened my partner, who heard me scream on the phone and assumed the worst.

But I didn't have time. You jumped me, and I defended myself. You tried being violent, but hadn't expected that you needed to. You were confused and unsure, and you had a loud, hissing, spitting, kicking victim. You realised it was Saturday, and not a desolate enough road by far. You ran.

You're not a teenager. You're Indian or Pakistani looking, old enough to know better, at least in your twenties or even thirties. You had no facial hair, and wore a big bulky black coat and rolled-up beanie. I don't know if you're broke, or drunk, a chancer, or an experienced snatch-and-grabber. But I hope you bothered no-one else that night.

Blackheath isn't your area. It belongs to me, and the rest of us who abide by the laws and don't use fear and violence to obtain what we need. You frightened me, but all you did was to remind myself to get back into my martial arts, walk in the light and get a can of mace. Which I'm sad that I need, but I won't be curbed into cowering inside, just because you're out there.

You now have the police after you. I remember what you look like. If they don't find you, I hope that discourages you and you can get a job. Even a shitty job and a dream is better than what you're doing now. Nobody loves a low-life thief. You can do better. I know you can.

Who would you rather be- the lonely, pathetic man who frightened a woman on her own, and couldn't even fight a girl -
or the people I met across the road, in the light, who, despite my never having met them, walked with me home to my boyfriend, put a hand on my shoulder to stop me shaking and reminded me I was safe?

Who do you think will have a better life?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Captain Phillips- a review

Paul Greengrass's latest outing on the African Horn is visceral enough to make you taste the fear in Tom Hank's mouth. 

I wasn't familiar with how the real-life story of Captain Phillips actually ended, so was quite nailed to my seat for the duration. I genuinely didn't know which way this was gonna go.

Greengrass highlights the differences in life incredibly well; the leafy calm of Vermont, car journeys, laptops and family chats, versus the dust- covered Somalian abject poverty. Greens and blues versus yellows and reds. The introduction to Somalia is quick; Here, community counts, being strong, and siezing a chance to raise your head above the crowd.
There was certainly a powerful interest from me to see the "other" side of the piracy - "Somalian Pirates" is a frightening phrase, a disembodied echo of black flags paired with modern, very deadly gunfire and a ruthlessness brought on by poverty, need and greed.

It feels authentic. Not patronising. Though someone actually from Somalia might be better suited to judge than me. But having some friends, I felt vaguely familiar with the plights - Somalians should be strong, as are demanded of these kids, setting off to sea in a rustbucket skiff which hardly looks capable of taking on a trawler, much less a gargantuan commercial vessel.

As the imminent hijack becomes apparent, Greengrass's shaky extreme close-ups serve their purpose well, and gives a distinct feeling of being inside the Captain's head. It helps that Hanks's performance is subtle and deep, travelling from concern, to glossing over, to growing panic, and the decision to stay strong for his crew. Which he and Muse, the Somalian "captain", are both doing in their own ways. More than once we sense the heightened fear in the Somalian crew, the urgent sense of need. As a westerner it's hard to understand why they don't take the 30K offered, get back in the skiff and take that life-changing money with them.
But they have "Bosses" as Muse later points out. When he brags he took a Greek vessel and pilfered 6 million dollars the previous year, I believed him. But where did the money go? Not in his pockets.

Beautifully heightened also is the patronising "everything gonna be ok" to the terrified white sailors; you feel the acute sense that the gap here, between language, status, quality of life; it's too high - there is hardly any way of communicating here. But Phillips tries. He sees the human in Muse, and certainly later in the almost sweet sixteen -year- old unfortunate pirate getting his foot injured, wailing and wishing he was never there.
That's how quick you realise they are children, really; fishermen, who are displaced by a larger system and left with little other option.

The US Marine comes off exceedingly well when they leap into action, mustering more testosterone than a donor test tube, voices deeper than the Mariana Trench and muscles so pumped they can hardly move - it is all a bit excessive, but that again is perhaps the point - the pathetic, bobbing little lifeboat seems hopelessly outmanoeuvred and the "pirates" utterly without a chance.

Again, there is a heartbreaking feeling of the young Somalians never having even been near such things; they are practically in awe when the big American ships come. Now they are important! Now they will listen!
Instead it becomes just a hopeless fight where everyone speaks from a stance worlds apart. The trick the Marines finally use on the pirates feels necessary, but brutally heartless.

All the while, we are with Captain Phillips, and a brave performance it is from Hanks. I haven't seen him like this since Gump. The range of emotions in the man are staggering, and a lesson in acting from anyone who cares to watch. He listens intently, ears pricked and hairs raising on our skin every time he tries to outsmart the pirates. There is a constant frustration in how little they know, and how easy the rescue could be, but the lethal guns are simply too close, and the space too confined.
Hanks's character is fascinating as he goes from glimmering hope to utter despair and meltdown, and if you can watch the last sequence unemotional, you officially possess a calcified pump.

Ultimately a moving, strong, beautifully shot film with heart - stopping performances all round. Shane Murphy's First Mate should also be mentioned as a real- feeling, bold performance.

I do think there were a number of titles which could have been chosen for this film - much like Kevin Spacey's theatre posters (What shall we put on the poster this season? I know- Me!) it seems like they know well who the star of the picture is, (Let's just name it after my character, shall we?) but with a tour- de - force performance like Hanks gives, you could call it Princess Cherrypop or My Excellent Acting Ability for all I care.

PS- sorry Kev, I know you don't always do it :-)

Claire Newman- Williams headshot

Claire Newman- Williams headshot