You all are probably getting tired of me starting off posts with the obligatory apology about how I don't post out here often enough. All 12 of you that still read these. And you're growing weary of me always referring to all 12 of you. You would think that with as infrequent as I post now that I could be more original. I promise to do better in the future. Until then, let this serve as a long-awaited entry. About a movie, of course.
"Captain Phillips" is the latest flick to bring a huge news item to the big screen. In 2009 the hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates quickly became a national story. But even moreso when it was learned how he was rescued. Tom Hanks portrays the embattled captain as we see the story evolve through not only his eyes but also those of the Somali pirate captain, Muse (Barkhad Abdi).
I remember the actual news story like it was yesterday. Hard to believe that it took place nearly 5 years ago. I would have thought there would have been a movie about long before now. It seems like Lifetime has made a movie about every other traumatic news story that has taken place. In this particular instance, I'm glad someone had sense enough to make it a big production to give it the justice that it deserved. I can't even imagine what this would have been like filtered for a made-for-tv format.
One thing I never understood about the whole pirate issues in that particular sailing area is why the United States allows it to happen anyway. I understand that there is no avoiding those particular travel routes. They did an alright job of explaining that in the film. They even showed the measures that the ships take to prevent hijackings. What I don't get is would it really kill the U.S. to put just one trained armed soldier on those ships? Maybe even two. It would be too expensive to do that you say? Well they sent a warship and a battle cruiser full of Navy seamen to get Captain Phillips. Along with a Navy SEAL Team. Now how much do you suppose all that cost? I would say one soldier or two per ship would much more inexpensive.
I'm still not sure how I feel about them taking the time to go into a brief backstory with Muse. At first I wondered how it was even possible because I thought all the pirates died. Apparently not as he was captured and now in an American prison. Still, I perceived that storyline as being an attempt to humanize the pirates so they didn't seem quite as faceless when they were inevitably killed. But why? Yes, there are several decent Somalis out there. No, these guys weren't among them. No need in trying to make us feel some compassion for the bad guys.
What I remember most about this story when it happened was hearing how SEAL snipers took out three pirates nearly simultaneously in that lifeboat. I always thought that was pretty amazing. However, I was also thinking of the old-fashioned lifeboat where there is a clear unobstructed view and no cover. The thing the pirates had Phillips in was dang near like a submarine. Hardly any clear view at all. Yet these snipers were still able to get clean shots from a huge distance while the the boat bobbed up and down on the rough sea. I had even more respect for them after discovering all that.
But that was nothing compared to what Phillips did to aid his own rescue. First, the fact that he was able to keep a calm head while still on the Maersk Alabama (by the way...where in the world did they come up with that name when they named it?) pretty much saved the entire crew. Then he had the wherewithal to get the pirates worked up to the point where they made themselves better targets so that the SEALs could do their job. Had he not done all that, this would have been a very different movie with an unhappy ending that wouldn't have played well with a lot of audiences.
There are a lot of stories r'ipped from today's headlines' that would not make good Hollywood movies. "Captain Phillips" definitely was not one of them. There was so much going on that we wouldn't have believed it had it not really happened. Leave it to Hanks-- who has basically become the king of leading men depicting real life stories --to give us a Hollywood portrayal that glorifies the actual events the way they deserve.
My rating: A -