Day 76: Watch Captain Phillips


Today’s first was to watch Captain Phillips, the second of the nine Best Picture nominated films. Last week, Gravity took me into space. Tonight, the story took place in the open seas off the coast of Somalia. As in space, when disaster strikes, being at sea far from shore and other ships, leaves you vulnerable and then self-reliant as you wait for help.

Captain Phillips was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for first time actor, Barkhad Abdi. It did not win in any categories. The movie stars Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi and is directed by Paul Greengrass. It’s rated  PG-13 and has a run time of 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Based on an actual event that took place in 2009, Captain Phillips is the story of the hijacking of the unarmed ship, Maersk Alabama. During the incident, merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips was taken hostage by Somali pirates, led by Abduwali Muse. The movie is well crafted, superbly acted and very intense. I knew the final outcome of the situation, as far as the captain was concerned, but I didn’t know HOW it was all resolved, nor what happened to the pirates. I was completely caught up in the story until the credits rolled.

Tom Hanks gives a gritty, masterful performance. I’ve been a fan of his since his start on television. He has the kind of soulful eyes that speak far more than his words. I’m surprised he didn’t receive a nomination for Best Actor. Newcomer Barkhad Abdi was amazing as the pirate leader, Muse. He has an intensity and presence that kept my eyes on him in every scene he appeared in. His nomination was well deserved, and I hope to see him in future films.

I was struck by the similarities between the two men, Phillips and Muse, both living lives not entirely within their own control. Both men left their homes to accomplish a routine job and became ensnared in a life changing event. When Muse, explaining to Captain Phillips why he’s a pirate, says, “I have bosses…”, Phillips answers with grim understanding, “We all have bosses.” As the movie progressed, Hanks’ character become more basic and simple, intent on survival, while Abdi’s became more complex, more desperate, as he realized he was in a situation way over his head.

The compassion Phillips had for his captors was touching. He assured the four men that they could take the $30,000 he had given them and go home, without harm, if they would just release him. Even when the US Navy showed up, the Somali men would not back down, could not release their hostage and return home without more money, without leverage. According to Muse, “I came too far, I can’t give up”. Those words sealed their fate.

Throughout the incident, Captain Phillips heard Muse say many times, “Everything’s gonna be alright.” Muse spoke to reassure himself as much as Phillips, perhaps. As the Navy positioned themselves to resolve the situation, their negotiators eerily echoed Muse’s words, “Everything’s gonna be okay.” Like Phillips, until the very end, I wasn’t sure that either side spoke the truth.

This is a powerful movie. I highly recommend it.

One Reply to “Day 76: Watch Captain Phillips”

  1. I have actually watched this movie three times now. I can’t believe Tom Hanks didn’t get an Oscar nomination. There were many great films out this year, I guess that’s why. I had seen this one, Gravity, and American Hustle prior to the Oscars. I purchased 12 Years a Slave last week. I am waiting for my college age son to watch it with me. He is a history major. I love your movie firsts! I can’t wait to read your reviews on the ones I haven’t seen.

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