The attraction of finding riches without working for it has always been very strong with humans. Theft, pilferage, fraud – whatever you call it, it is an assault on any man’s right to own the money and goods they have earned. And it is no wonder that in the seafaring world, the pirates are the worst possible enemies of free trade and movement.
Most of the pirate stories, apart from the glamorous take in ‘pirates of the Carribean’ series has always focused on the brutality and senselessness of this heinous crime. Some of the best thrillers we have come across were written by Shri Gunwantray Acharya. These are very good and moving stories about the pirates in the Indian ocean who hampered trade with Africa on west and Java / Sumatra on East long before the Europeans found their way to the Indian subcontinent.
However, pirates are hardly a thing of past. Today the hub has shifted to North-west African region around Somalia where life on the land is so dreadful that a lot of locals have no other trade but piracy. They go after the big cargo ships who are by nature slow in moving and hijack these ships and the staff on the ship, so they can bargain a ransom for their release. The ransom runs in millions of dollars. Unfortunately, the money goes to the warlords in the area, and the locals remain just as poor as they were.
|Producers||:||Michael De Luca, Dana Brunetti, Scott Rudin|
|Based On||:||A Captain’s Duty : Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty|
|Studio||:||Michael De Luca Productions, Scott Rudin Productions, Trigger Street Productions|
|Distributed by||:||Columbia Pictures|
|Released On||:||11 October 2013|
|Starring||:||Tom Hanks (Richard Phillips), Barkhad Abdi (Abduwali Muse), Catherine Keener (Andrea Phillips), Faysal Ahmed (Najee), Michael Chernus (Shane Murphy), David Warshofsky (Mike Perry), Corey Johnson (Ken Quinn), Chris Mulkey (John Cronan), Yul Vazquez (Commander Frank Castellano), Max Martini (U.S. Navy SEAL commander), Omar Berdouni (Nemo), Mohamed Ali (Assad), Barkhad Abdirahman (Bilal), Mahat M. Ali (Elmi), Issak Farah Samatar (Hufan), and others…|
Recently we saw “Captain Phillips” (again) – which is a 2013 biographical thriller based on the hijacking experience of Captain Richard Phillips while he was travelling on his ship Maersk Alabama in 2009 and was taken captive by Somali pirates. The movie is based on his 2010 book called “A Captain’s Duty : Somali Pirates, Navy Seals and Dangerous Days at Sea“.
The book was adapted in a screenplay by Billy Ray and Paul Greengrass directed the film featuring Tom Hanks in the title role of Captain Phillips. Looks like Tom Hanks is going through a phase of real-life fiction featuring first a sea captain, and last year an airline pilot in Sully 🙂
We meet Captain Phillips as he is leaving his home in USA on yet another journey to travel to Port of Salalah in Oman, where his merchant cargo ship Maersk Alabama is waiting for him. As he remarks to his wife, instead of getting easier, the journeys are becoming more difficult with higher demands on job, greater competition and rapidly changing economic environment around the world.
He comes to Oman, where his orders are to take the ship through Gulf of Aden to Mombasa, Kenya, travelling through Somali basin which is a hotbed of piracy. He is very conscious of the risk, so he takes all security precautions and conducts practice drills.
When the first attack comes, he manages to ward it off by combination of some luck, some sea manoeuvres and some clever fake communication on radio. However, they all know that it is only a matter of time before the pirates will be back. Their rapid skiffs (small speed boats) are no match in size, but the cargo container ship is like a big whale – its slow, it has no real weapons and is manned by people whose knowledge is restricted to shipping rather than fighting.
The inevitable attack comes, and this time nothing can stop the pirates. They are on board and ready to kill. Captain Phillips asks his crew to hide and tries to talk the pirates into accepting 30,000$ cash which is all the money in the captain’s safe. But the pirate leader Muse’s eyes are full of dreams of multi-million dollar ransoms.
From here the chase starts – Can anyone keep their wits about them through all that’s unfolding. The pirates don’t have much to lose, they are ready to kill, assault, destroy with little care. And against them are normal, working people, who have never considered fighting as a job skill. But the crew knows the ship better then the pirates, and a merchant cargo ship can be a big place to find your way through.
And so it appears for a while that the crew will win against the incomers, but everything changes when the pirates looking defeated and on the point of leaving manage to take Captain Phillips with them.
The stakes suddenly change – now it is an American citizen’s life, so American armed forces are actively on pursuit. First a warship in the area and later the SEALs are mobilised. Can all these might of weaponry and trained soldiers save Captain Phillips’ life when pitted against the fanatic urgency of the pirates?
That is worth watching on the screen.
The film is very real and hence very effective. Captain Phillips is a normal person, not a film hero. He just makes best of what comes his way, trying to do his duty, trying to survive, trying to help these young man whose lives are tragic beyond imagination. They don’t even have proper clothes or shoes. They are surviving on combination of drugs and cigarettes. There is no question of food or drinking water. What fuels them is the pathetic energy of animals driven into corners with no escape.
Abdulwali Muse knows that there is no happy ending to his story and he still keeps saying: ‘Its gonna be alright’ and that he wants to go to America someday. He does get his wish as he gets a prison sentence for 33 years in America. In Muse’s mind, he is only a fisherman, however, in Somalia, this is what the fishermen do.
Barkhad Abdi was nominated for “Best supporting Actor” Oscar for his fantastic performance as Muse. You can read in detail about the award related details and other interesting stuff in our other editor’s reveiw for this movie. Here is the quick link
The film achieved both commercial and critical success. However, there were members of the crew who later gave interviews to say that the film did not tell the true facts. Nevertheless, it gives a very good picture of the trials gone through by Captain Phillips and his crew. The lifeboat where he was held hostage for five days remains part of the SEAL museum display and the film is worth watching, only if to remind us how safe we are at home.
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