I came out of the movie theater after watching the film Captain Phillips last night literally feeling empty and frustrated. Not that the acting wasn’t terrific and the story compelling, but empty about such a needless tragedy. I also felt the title was poorly chosen, as it hardly relates to the real and thought-provoking story – this movie is not just about one captain (Captain Phillips), but about two captains (Captain Phillips and the pirate captain) and the diametrically opposite ends of the economic, political, and social spectrum they come from.
As a result, I was grasping at straws for answers to the various questions the film raises, such as:
- How can the first world better address the desperate needs of the developing world, thus reducing the potential for illegal activities such as high-seas piracy?
- Why can’t merchant ships have some sort of rudimentary defense that could have averted the takeover and loss of life?
- Why would anyone agree to sail, man, or operate a ship in pirate-filled waters? The shortest distance between two points is not always the most efficient.
- Why was this small group of pirates left with an all-or-nothing ultimatum from their commander, when they had succeeded in gaining $30,000?
- Why is it necessary for other nations to over-fish the seas off a desperately poor country, when that may be all they have to survive upon or to feed themselves?
Tom Hanks does an excellent job of portraying Captain Rich Phillips (nicknamed Irish by his captors), particularly in the second half of the movie. But the person who stole the show and should (MUST) earn a Best Supporting Actor nomination was Barkhad Abdi, who played the lead pirate named Muse. It is not often I find myself empathetic to the bad guy, but Mr. Abdi masterfully portrayed the utter frustration, anger, and desperation of the entire Somali nation in his performance without becoming “evil.” The best two lines of the film took place between Captain Phillips and Muse near the climax of the film:
Captain Phillips stated:
“There’s got to be something other than fishing and kidnapping people”
Muse replied, somberly:
“Maybe in America, Irish, maybe in America.”
I recommend seeing this powerful and dramatic film, but don’t expect to come out of theater smiling.