Captain Phillips (2013)
When I think of pirates I either think of someone downloading the latest episode of Game of Thrones or Johnny Depp prancing around with a sword. So when I watch the news and hear stories of Somali pirates, my brain gets a little bit confused. It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century pirates are still a problem. But these pirates aren’t colourful vagabonds or digital thieves. They are dangerous men born out of desperation and violence. In Captain Phillips, when warned of pirates in the area, they don’t prepare for a revival of Pirates of Penzance. They are scared for their lives. And they have every right to be. Because Captain Phillips is the true story of a merchant ship that is boarded by pirates. And the reality of this situation makes this one of the most gripping thrillers I’ve seen.
Tom Hanks plays Richard Phillips, the captain of the Maersk ship Alabama. A husband and father. A man just doing his job. It’s clear from the outset that Phillips is just a regular man. We are also introduced to Muse, a Somalian man who is surrounded by poverty and violence. When Muse is ordered to hit the ocean find a ship to steal from by the local warlord, events are put in play that will see these two men go head to head. By the time the movie finishes, these men are pushed to breaking point and not everyone gets a happy ending.
When sitting down to watch Captain Phillips I was worried about one thing: that this would turn into Under Seige – where Tom Hanks would hide in the shadows and single-handedly take down the armed pirates with nothing but found items to help him. Fortunately this is not the case. How Hanks character handles himself is both remarkable and real, which actually makes the tense scenes even more suspenseful. If this was a typical Hollywood action film, you’d have to really raise the stakes to make that happen. After all, four men with machine guns would be no threat to James Bond. But in real life, even one desperate man with a weapon is frightening. Captain Phillips had me on the edge of my seat in the same way that Mission Impossible: Ghost protocol did, and didn’t need Tom Cruise hanging from the world’s largest building to do it. A tip for watching this movie: don’t read up on the real life events before watching this – knowing how events unfold will rob you of an excellent roller coaster of emotions.
The makers of this film try to show both sides of this story. The Somali pirates aren’t stock villains but real victims of circumstance. There is an attempt to get their side of the story but unfortunately doesn’t get as much time as it deserves. These are men that have been forced into piracy by circumstance – the Developed World has over-fished their waters, leaving them hungry. Political instability has given power to those who have the most guns. There is a sense that these men had little choice but to take desperate measures. That someone would engage in these acts is proof that we live in a broken world which yearns for justice. The answers are not as simple as sending in the navy. We need real justice. We need someone to come and make things right. Fix this world at its core and deal with the problem of sin.
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:11-16)
We shouldn’t be surprised when we see injustice in this world. Even the “bad guys” suffer. But when Jesus returns, then it will be time for justice. All evil will be dealt with. But until then, we wait.
Captain Phillips is one of my favourite films of 2013. There are some moments that might be too intense for more sensitive movie goers, especially towards the end, but overall a rewarding experience.