25 October, 2013

Captain Phillips : Tension on the high seas

A Tom Hanks movie comes with its own level of expectation and he has rarely fallen short.

Here though more than Hanks the work belongs to Bill Ray’s book ( A Captains Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS and Dangerous Days at Sea ) and the captain of the movie, its director Paul Greengrass( Bourne Supremacy, Bourne Ultimatum). Maersk Shipping Lines vessel Alabama being hijacked on the high seas by Somalian pirates is the one liner of this superb work on celluloid. 

The movie attracted controversy in Hanks portrayal of Phillips as being inaccurate, the original Merchant Master being arrogant, and is said to have had disregarded the crews safety by ignoring piracy warnings for those waters…that apart.

As a film it is an edge of the seat drama, and Greengrass makes it pacy and real. Barkhad Abdi as Abdullah Muse the pirate leader is chillingly matter of fact. The movie maintains the balance of underlining the bleak situation back home for the Somalian fisher folk; who were responsible for rejuvenating piracy as an industry on the world map. It’s just business between the have not’s and the have’s. What else could they do with the fishing gone to larger trawlers and the politics back there doing very little for their survival. Maritime laws prevent merchant ships from carrying arms. This has created a chink in the armour of the sea trade, making it ridiculously easy for smaller armed groups and vessels to board sailing vessels and hold them for ransom. It happens in the far-east Asian waters and on the African seas and though patrolled still remains a huge area to cover. As a tense hostage drama it ranks right up there and as a situation facing the world trade it creates uncomfortable questions in the mind; On different worlds on a collision course in the times of today. 

Captain Phillips boards the ship, MAERSK Alabama with a set course from Oman to Mombasa with her cargo. The course runs through the Indian Ocean on the Somalian waters that have a history of piracy. Cut frame back to Somalia and we have a fishing village at the edge of the sea being forced to shake butt and grab a ship. It’s the matter of fact manner in which arms are carried by fishermen of all ages that paints a scary picture of a hopeless situation within. A ship any ship and the one that they pirated last week was last week’s job, this week another one is needed to be hijacked. When the captured Captain screams “you are not fishermen”, Muse replies “After the ransom, I want to get to the USA, its different for you there, here I have bosses too”.

The chase, the piracy act on high seas, the hostage drama and the rescue is the stuff to be watched and experienced. Tom Hanks is excellent but the high strung presence of Barkhad Abdi grabs our attention from the time he steps into the first frame. Full marks to be awarded to Greengrass for touching upon a sensitive headlined subject and treating it with a balanced fairness. 

As to the inaccuracy claims they can remain as the subject of a debate like most of the worlds recorded history

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