Captain Phillips – 8.4

A remarkable film that involved me intellectually and emotionally from start to finish. Director Paul Greengrass set up an equality between the American captain and the Somali pirate at the outset, by showing both men leaving family and embarking on their collision course. Muse, in an Oscar-worthy supporting role, was never a bad guy: every man in his village wanted to go with him – it was an act that was accepted by their desperate society; and even moreso it was required by the warlord above them. His courage and Captain Phillips’s were certainly equal; and they both used their brains. If Captain Phillips won the battle, it was only because he had more worldly experience, plus the technology and firepower of the U.S. Navy behind him. Without condoning piracy, the movie made you sympathetic to the pirates: it was the Americans who tricked and lied and killed in cold blood – understandable in the circumstances, but not the kind of heroism we’re used to cheering at the movies. In short, at every stage of the movie, I had to check on my feelings: whom was I rooting for, and why? The film was also wonderfully shot and edited; I felt the claustrophobia of being on the tanker and I felt I was living through the crisis almost in real time.
Two caveats only: Tom Hanks was wonderfully expressive, but he never convinced me that he was either a ship captain or a New Englander. And although the story came from real life and must be accurate, we could never understand why the ship’s owner, let alone its insurer, would send it through pirate-infested waters without a security guard or two who could have easily gunned down the pirates before they had a chance to board.

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