Sunday, December 15, 2013


Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi
Catherine Keener

"Out here Survival is Everything"

Muse (Somali pirate): Last year I took a Greek ship. 6 million dollars.
Capt. Richard Phillips: 6 million dollars? So what are you doing here?
Muse: Shut up, Irish. Too much talking.
Capt. Phillips: The problem is not me talking. The problem is you not listening. 

The quote above truly defines in essence why there is a surge in piracy going on in the Horn of Africa waters.  

Paul Greengrass's masterful direction exposes this rampant situation through his film adaptation of a book written by the real Captain Richard Phillips.    Tom Hanks did an excellent job portraying the ordeal that the Maersk Alabama captain went through when he was captured and used as pawn by 4 Somali pirates.

The first part of the film presents the tension filled action sequences. From the high speed chase as the pirates relentlessly pursue the large cargo ship to the time when they actually board and hold the crew and its captain hostage.  

But the actual 'acting' comes into play once the pirates have captured Capt. Phillips and take off with him on board a steel enclosed lifeboat towards Somalia.  They plan to use him as a bait to hike up their ransom demands. The exchange between Capt. Phillips and his captors reveal a lot of insights into the real motives behind their horrific acts.  

The head of the Somali pirates, Muse nonchalantly declares that after everything has settled, he plans to go to America and buy a car.  He says it like it is some matter of fact information that he merely throws out there, totally oblivious to the bigger picture. That what he does for a 'living' is a crime which is punishable by any court in every country. Although his statement was genuinely said, it was also quite tragic to hear and made me shake my head with disbelief.

It also presents the personality of the veteran Captain who tries his best to fathom the ideals of the 'fishermen'.  Despite being brutally captured, he still exudes a lot of humane qualities towards his aggressors. He even helps to clean the wound on the foot of the youngest one from the group.  He also tries to tell them in not so many ways that their efforts are totally futile especially since the US Navy would do everything in their power to rescue him.  He tried to appeal to their moral sense by saying that the cargo he was carrying was going towards a feeding program for African kids.  But it fell on deaf ears!

It also has to be said that naturally the film is biased against the captors.  It is a given that 4 hapless yet fully armed Somali pirates cannot win against the mighty US Navy.  Muse even says "I came too far, I can't give up" - basically resigned to the fact that he is in a no win situation yet persists till the end. 

On the other hand, Captain Phillips himself also realizes that they are not merely fishermen as they claim but hardcore terrorists. They are manipulated and controlled by perhaps some syndicate who may or may not work for the Somali government.  Of course, it is difficult to make accusations without any concrete pieces of evidence yet that is the sense I got from this film.  

A well crafted movie that served as a good vehicle for Tom Hanks to once again amuse us with his brilliant acting. It also exposed a real global crisis that is sadly getting way out of hand.

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