Movie Review: Captain Phillips

tom_hanks_captain_phillipsEver since I first heard that James Cameron was down in Mexico building a full scale movie set of the Titanic I said to myself, like every other living thing did, “This movie isn’t going to end well.”

Anyone who’d ever heard about the Titanic knew that, at some point, the ship was going to sink. Or maybe not. In Hollywood “based on a true story” often means very little. Perhaps in Cameron’s movie the ship would avoid the berg, then slowly rise out of the water and fly off into outer space in search of the aliens from the movie The Abyss. Snap! He could have invented the “alternate timeline” cheat long before J.J. Abrams flared his lens all over that shit.

The movie Captain Phillips presents a similar problem. It opens with Phillips as a prisoner, surrounded by pirates wielding AK-47 machine guns all over the place, and our protagonist hogtied and covered with blood.

Has Captain Phillips already been shot? Does he live? Does he die? Is this going to be one of those flashback thingies?

Spoiler alert: He went on to write a book about the experience. The movie is based on the book. Something tells me he’s gonna pull through. So much for the dramatic tension of the opening scene.

If, like me, you’ve been breathlessly waiting for a big screen treatment of what it’s really like on one of those big container ships, you are in for a real treat.

It’s been 13 years since Chuck Noland was the sole survivor of a FedEx plane crash in the South Pacific. Later he was found, barely alive, floating on a primitive raft of his own construction in shipping lanes by the container ship Maersk Alabama.

After getting his heart broken, he changed his name to Richard Phillips and went to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. (Look it up. It’s a real thing.)

During a short but amazing career, he’s worked his way up the ladder and now finds himself the Captain of the Maersk Alabama, the very same ship that rescued his ass a decade ago.

If these plot twists seem implausible, remember, we are dealing with Hollywood. Look on the bright side. At least this isn’t a sequel. Actually, with the same character, it kind of is.

This time the Maersk Alabama is on the Indian Ocean on the other side of the world ferrying 117 metric tons of cargo on the Didja Shake Yer Djibouti to Mombasa route. But instead of icebergs the crew has to worry about pirates as they skirt closely along the coast of Somali.

Maersk Alabama route mapCaptain Tom Hanks is at the helm with a crew of 19 merchant mariners. He has been issued piracy warnings advising him to stay 600 nautical miles from the Somalian coast*. The pirate swift attack boats have limited range and require a “mothership” to extend from coastal waters. In a move bound to make this a much more exciting movie, Hanks decides to play things close and take a shortcut known as Diagon Alley. If he didn’t this wouldn’t be much of a movie, right?

Drama ensues.

Hanks is reliable and turns in an excellent portrayal of Captain Phillips. He even looks a lot like him and uses handheld radios and stuff just like Captain Phillips did in real life.

I’ll reserve the rest of my reviewer’s excellence until after I’ve actually seen the movie. Oops.

I give Captain Phillips two out of four bilge pumps.

* This CNN YouTube video claims that 16 out of 19 members of the Maersk Alabama crew fault the Captain for not heeding the piracy warnings and staying 600 nautical miles off the Somalian coast. The circuitous route would have increased the duration of the journey and delayed the ETA of the Maersk Alabama to it’s next port of call. The piracy incident actually took place 145 miles off the Somali coast.

YouTube: Anderson Cooper 360

6 responses

  1. Come to think of it, I think tom has only died in Philadelphia story and Savig Private Ryan.
    His career has barely avoided death several times.


    1. A year or two ago my mom contacted me and said a gift was on the way that I was going to love. She said it was a set of DVDs from one of my favorite shows as a child.

      What could it possibly be, I wondered?

      Star Trek? Star Trek The Animated Series? The possibilities were endless.

      Imagine my shock and horror when I received all two seasons of Bosom Buddies.

      What? That guy from the Bachelor Party movie? I used to watch that?

      Apparently my memory ain’t so good. And that explains a lot.

      Oops. Spoiler alert!


  2. So I guess “Sweet Home, Alabama” will never be on his playlist.

    You’re turning into quite the movie reviewer. What did you think of “Star Trek: Into Darkness?” I just watched it and…


    1. It was Star Trek so it gave me the full body tingles. But it also had J.J. Abrams so it didn’t strive too hard to adhere to its roots and had plot holes that gape more than my mouth drooling on my favorite pillow when I’m asleep. In that regard it’s almost like an insult to true fans like myself.

      That said, it was still a satisfactory entertainment as far as it goes. And I thought, as usual, Tom Hanks was excellent.

      And, this is Karl Urban code, it left me “Pine-ing” for more…


  3. I saw this film lt night and it DOES NOT open with Captain Phillips hog-tied and covered in blood.

    I quit reading after that.


    1. Due to production deadlines I had had to review this movie without having seen it. Just like the holodeck that means there is something like a 50% +/- margin of error. That’s a liberty I took to meet my goal of publishing a review three weeks before the moving was released.

      And, for the record, Captain Phillips hogtied and covered with blood was the way the book, A Captain’s Duty opened.

      The movie was “based on a true story” and we all know that means in Hollywood. Both stories happened on planet Earth. After that the movie may also take a few liberties.

      I call it my artistic license to kill.

      Thank you for the correction. I stand behind the rest of my review. Hopefully I’ll see the movie someday.


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