Ever 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.
Captain 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?
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.