Before we go on expressing how “Captain Phillips” is one of the most exciting and entertaining thriller movies we have seen this year and how amazing Tom Hanks acts in this film, we should first have a look at the controversial part of this film as to what really happened in April 2009.
While the so called based on the true event “Captain Phillips” directed by the tension expert Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday, The Bourne Supremacy, United 93), starring the most reliable actor on earth, Tom Hanks, opens New York Film Festival and London Film Festival, the captain himself Richard Phillips and Tom Hanks walk the red carpet together under the spotlight, the crew members of the U.S. cargo MV Maersk Alabama find it horrendous that their captain has been portrayed as a hero, and they’re angry about it. The lawsuit filed by the crew members against the cargo ship companies; Waterman Steamship Corporation and Maersk Line, for sending them to a dangerous area is still on going and they claim that captain Phillips knowingly and willingly put the crew in danger by ignoring the report of the recent pirate attacks and disregarding the warning to remain at least 600 miles from the coast of Somalia. They say that the story told in this movie is a big lie.
So what’s accurate and what’s not?
After the 2009 Pirate attack, captain Richard Phillips has been received as a hero, even though Phillips never called himself a hero. The crew members said that captain Phillips was arrogant and reckless and had a very bad reputation for at least 12 years and no one wanted to sail with him, but this heroic movie is anyhow largely based on Phillips’ memoirs. The crew members said that they had two pirate attacks over 18 hours but the movie only showed one. The captain commanded the Lifeboat drill instead of a Security drill because they needed to do certain drills every year for the safety protocol which was not mentioned in the film. Phillips did actually dropped his Boston accent, made a fake radio conversation to scare the pirate boats away, but he steered the cargo ship back to the dangerous zone right after. Later in the night, the pirates are back again, the chief engineer Mike Perry says that Phillips kept the light on and the bridge open, Perry then brought the crew to the ‘Secure room’ and locked themselves up. And at 7 a.m., like shown in the movie, 4 armed pirates from age of 16 to 19 are onboard, captain Phillips knows that this kind of pirate attacks are often going unharmed and he did offer 30 thousands dollars to the pirates. But the pirates were all wearing sandals, so no one stepped on broken glass, but the crew did capture the pirate leader Muse to exchange Phillips.
Philipps didn’t act as a hero like in the movie, and he was in a remarkably good shape after 5 days as lifeboat hostage when the U.S. Navy Seal snipers (Team Six, the same team that took out Bin Laden) followed Obama’s order to kill the pirates and rescue him. Tom Hanks has improvised the traumatized Phillips at the end as there is not much mentioned about it in Phillips’ book. On the other hand, Muse, the only surviving pirate who was 16 in 2009, was indeed sentenced as an adult to 33 years in U.S. prison. Muse has declined Sony’s many attempts to meet him knowing that they decided to make him a bad guy, and the talented first time actor who played Muse, Barkhad Abdi originally from Somalia, said that he understands those pirates were former fishermen who ran out of way to survive but not all Somalians are bad, and that the Somalians are tired of these pirate actions which gives them such a bad name.
Paul Greengrass is extremely good on handheld camera document style to create a life or death tension and make the audience sit on the edge of their seats. The music by Henry Jackman (The Dark Knight, X-Men: First Class) makes all the danger situations more nerve wrecking than ever, but the sound and the Post-production voice double in this movie is sometimes cheap and un-synchronized which is very disturbing at beginning of the film. But if you like those “How to survive from an unordinary life danger” kind of thriller excitements, this is the best film of this kind you can find this year and who doesn’t like to see Tom Hanks survive at middle of nowhere after ‘Castaway’? And if you’re curious about how the security of cargo ships has improved since Maersk Alabama’s pirate attack? Not much. Maersk Alabama has actually been attacked again in the same year but this time they had an armed security team with M-16’s, which the majority of the cargo ships don’t and are still dangerously unprotected.
– Shumaï Chou