There are a few good reasons for me not to like Captain Phillips.  I am not a big fan of ‘stories inspired by real events’, especially when they try to follow closely the ‘real events’. This film is based on real events, was made only a few years after the events occurred, and according to many accounts is quite accurate in following the real story. Yet the story does not get lost at any moment and tells much more that a docu-drama. It is a real strong drama by itself. I also dislike stories where unarmed and empty-handed heroes succeed to subdue armed and superior forces. There is no such thing here, the fight that is taking place (and there is a hell of a fight) is much more about psychology and about the power of will and spirit than the power of muscles and arms. Here is an American anti-hero rather than an American hero who survives and overcomes because of his anti-hero forces.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1535109/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1535109/

 

I did learn a few things about modern piracy that I did not know. Commercial ships – it appears – are not carrying arms and their crews look more like a gang of corporate technicians (they even are organized in unions), even when they sail oceans infested by pirates. This makes the boarding of a huge American commercial ship by four machine guns armed Somali fishermen turned into pirates and the subduing of the American crew of 20 possible (I avoid using ‘credible because’ it really happened). The resulting confrontation which becomes a thriller at sea makes Captain Phillips a well paced and smartly filmed action movie, and the suspense is in the air all the time. Even as we know how it ends we are curious to understand how director Paul Greengrass (who directed both the real facts inspired United 93 as well as part of the fiction Bourne films) will lead us to that end.

 

(video source JoBlo.com)

 

One of the reasons of the success is no doubt named Tom Hanks. He can do no wrong and we all know it. He does even more here. If there was no concept of super-anti-hero before he just invented it. There is much more in his facing of his captors and the dialog with their leader who is so well acted by Barkhad Abdi that I had to go to Wikipedia to make sure that he is indeed a professional actor and not a fisherman from the coast of Somalia, maybe even one turned pirate. What we have here is a reflection about power. Who has the power? the guy with the gun? the guy with the bigger boat? What are the limits of having at hand the best technology and the best army, being able to launch satellites, send helicopters and deploy the best armed forces – does this ensure the safety of your (our!) mode of life? Great questions, and there are no definite answers in this piece of real history brought to screen, but the film has the huge merit of asking them.