Captain Phillips Review
Rachel Yan ’14
“One of the year’s best movies...and Tom Hanks’ strongest work in more than a decade”, wrote the Detroit News. Full of action, suspense, and chaos, Captain Phillips, directed by Paul Greengrass (director of The Bourne Ultimatum) is gripping even to the last minute. The film tracks the story of the unarmed American cargo ship, Maersk Alabama, and her crew through the treacherous pirate-infested waters of East African, war-torn Somalia in 2009. When the ship is taken over by a band of Somali pirates off the coast of Mogadishu, Captain Phillips, beautifully played by Tom Hanks, surrenders to the four men with machine guns. The pirates kidnap him in an emergency life raft and refuse to release him until they are paid a ransom of $5 million US dollars. Based on a true story, the film reenacts the horrific nightmare the American crew faced on their days at sea, and the Navy’s strategic plight to rescue Captain Phillips.
The film remains controversial. Starting at the pirates’ home on Somalia’s coast, it gives viewers an inside look of the harsh environment in which they live. Since Somalia has no real form of government during their current civil war, many countries dump their trash and harmful toxins on the coast because there are no regulations. Furthermore, other western companies overfish off the coast leaving Somali citizens, mostly fishermen, with no fish for profit, as well as deadly toxic diseases in the waters. Phillips tells the pirate Muse, played by Somali-American newcomer Barkhad Abdi, “You can’t just be a fisherman or a pirate. There has to be something else in Somalia.” Muse solemnly replies, “Maybe in America.”
Greengrass wants viewers to empathize with the pirates. Of course, what they do to the cargo ships is wrong, but one must realize their situation. Because of western companies’ dumping and overfishing, they were forced to resort to working the sea as pirates. Captain Phillips made it onto my list of my favorite movies although I was certainly confused while watching the film. It was the first time I could not wholeheartedly root for the “good guy”, the American. Now you have to watch the film and decide for yourself.
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