Movie Review

Captain Phillips (2013)


I saw this movie Captain Phillips today at Escape, Express Avenue, Chennai. The movie had got released few months earlier in the USA and I heard from my friends there that it was good and worth watching. It was showing now in India and I didn’t want to miss it.

The film is about the hijack of a Cargo ship by Somali pirates in 2009, it is based on a true life incident and derived from the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs” by Captain Richard Phillips. This background increased my interest about the movie.

Somali has one of the longest stretches of coastline in the world of over 3025 Kilometers. Protecting this long coast even with a strong government and Navy in place will be difficult, but with the internal civil wars for many years, Somali has become a breeding ground of pirates on International water. Pirates target cargo ships as they see them as sitting ducks and their owners along with insurance companies ready to pay huge ransoms rather than suffer casualties or cargo loss. Cargo ships generally don’t carry firearms (it’s a complex subject, but you can read in Reddit about it) making it even more easier for the pirates. The number of these incidents from the time shown in the film (2009) has come down in the last 12-24 months due to heavy patrolling in the region by international Navy ships. With UN efforts there is also some form of Government taking shape in the land as well in the last year. I feel proud as an India to read that Indian Navy has escorted over 1037 ships (out of which 134 where Indian flagged) across Gulf of Aden in 2010.

Coming back to the film, Tom Hanks has done his role splendidly. The fear in his eyes when the pirates board the ship and put a gun against him was well done. The young somali-american actor Barkhad Abdi has equally done well his role as a leader of the the small pirate ship, he brings to life a typical rebel in front of our eyes. I was expecting this to be yet another Hollywood’s action movie where all ends well due to Heroic acts of the protagonist, the movie turned out to be much better.  The screen play grips you throughout, I could not feel a single minute of slack in the interest level even though you already know how it might turn out. I could understand why the movie got the high ratings of 8.1 in IMDB and 93% in Rotten Tomatoes. A must watch!

In this context, I was reminded of a TED talk by Rose George made in October 2013 in Singapore. She was talking about how Harvard Business  school few years back rated Somali Piracy to be best business model and about 544 crew are being held hostage at any point in Somali. Rose says that the world has become sea blind even though over 90% of world trade are transported by ships. The shipping industry has become super efficient both in terms of cost and dependability, because of which we simply don’t feel its existence.