It’s telling that there are two films released this year that deal with international piracy; a Hollywood version with Tom Hanks in the starring role and a Danish film with a relatively-unknown cast. International piracy is obviously a grave concern and both films take different approaches to the terror.
Captain Phillips purports to be “the true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.” The movie takes it’s time establishing the character of Phillips, soulfully-played by Tom Hanks, and then builds to a film of action and violence that ends with a dramatic shoot-out that resembles a video game with a helicopter, a Navy warship and a rescue mission that quickly becomes a military operation.
Cutting from scenes playing out on the cargo ship–to scenes of the Somalian pirates preparing to hijack the ship from their tiny boats, there is a sense of intimacy established with both crews. There is never a moment that you doubt that the pirates are doomed but the film creates a sympathy with their plight. The performances are all strong and Paul Greengrass directs the action so the tension builds and the audience is kept guessing. The climax is brilliantly-staged; even as you might wonder where they found so many military men with such thick necks! Tom Hanks has an amazing moment as he finally gives in to the stress and reacts to the horror.
There is a question of the missing money, http://www.sfgate.com/news/politics/article/30-000-went-missing-amid-rescue-of-Capt-Phillips-4887038.php#page-1 but no film tries to answer all the questions.
Here is an interesting piece from someone who has been a ship captain on a container ship and his experience with pirates. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/06/pirate-nights/?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20131107
The Danish film, A Hijacking, was released earlier this year and also tells the story of a container ship overtaken by pirates. This film focuses on the fates of two men: the head of the shipping company sweating out the long negotiation and the ship’s cook. As negotiations drag on, the kidnapped cook is forced to be the go-between with the pirates and is shown enduring awful conditions. Unlike the Hollywood version, there are no Navy Seals or warships coming to the rescue, but A Hijacking is also a gripping film and has extraordinary performances by the leads. And for the record, NEITHER film has anything remotely swashbuckling about it!
Rating: 4 stiff drinks of whiskey