I went to see the film, Captain Phillips. It’s been out for several months, but I just got around to seeing it. I think I enjoyed the movie more because I read his book before I saw the movie. It’s difficult to capture all of the significant moments in the book and condense it for the screen. The movie is based on a true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of a cargo ship, US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama.
As usual, Tom Hanks turned in a great performance. What I found fascinating was that Barkhad Abdi, an unknown, came off with equal flair. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult that must have been. Barkhad Abdi left Mogadishu when he was six, and was working as a chauffeur in Minneapolis before landing the role of the lead pirate in the film, Captain Phillips.
Spoiler alert! You may not want to read further, if you haven’t seen the film and plan to in the future.
What you see on-screen is the act of two desperate groups of people, the pirates, who seemingly have little to lose and the men of the Maersk in trying to evade being boarded. Once on board, the Somali’s brazenly take over the ship with AK-47 automatic rifles in hand. Most of the crew has hidden in the depths of the ship, primarily to shut it down and then to evade discovery & capture. Muse is the lead pirate and his small group are of varying and difficult to control temperaments. You see in his face the initial over confidence of just having captured a huge ship, but the whale isn’t cooperating and neither is the crew led by Captain Phillips.
The roller coaster emotions of the Somali’s and Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks), who gets taken as a hostage, are evident, however the unpredictability, grueling conditions and length of time are difficult to portray in a little over 2 hours. When you read the book, the intensity and duration, as well as the see-saw psychological struggle between captive and captor are brought into sharper focus. What really is curtailed in the movie is the insight on the family, the planning and the decisions made from the President on down, with just a quick portrayal of final action of the U.S. Navy. Keep in mind, this was the first year for newly elected President Barack Obama, also the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years. There would have likely been serious political consequences if the execution of the mission failed.
If you appreciate the nuance an actor can bring to the screen and not overplay their hand, check this movie out and see if you don’t agree with me. I don’t think this should be Barkhad Abdi only movie role.
- Pirates in Captain Phillips are Terrifying
- What Captain Richard Phillips thought about ‘Captain Phillips’
- Excerpt: “A Captain’s Duty” – CBS Sunday Morning
- Captain Phillips Co-Star Barkhad Abdi Is ‘Struggling’ – TIME