Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Captain Phillips

This afternoon having booked my ticket online for the 14.20 performance I made my way in the rain to Cineworld Bolden for a showing of Captain Phillips, having heard a good review from Dr Mark Kermode. The larger than average theatre one had some 50 or so people, a good number for a Monday afternoon. I avoided reading up about this true event not to knowing the outcome which was an excellent decision which added significantly to what is in essence a suspense movie about the attempt of the USA Navy to rescue the Captain of a container ship who was hijacked when their attempt to capture the ship failed.

While this is a suspense movie the Director and writers have attempted to place the event in the context of Somali fisherman who can no longer provide for their families because factory fishing vessels have reduced their livelihood to subsistence. The choice is to work for one of the major gangs with the resources to negotiate with governments for the return if the vessels and crews unharmed. The cut of the fishermen was tiny compared to the million obtained for the gang masters who ruled their captains with ruthlessness, something we witness as the film commences and yet the pressure from everyone in the coastal village is to be able to participate.

Similarly we follow Tom Hanks as the Captain when he leaves his home with his wife to the airport and learn about the difficulty he is having with one of his children. He flies to a huge container ship Terminal in Dubai on their way with a mixed cargo which included water aid and food aid to Mombassa Kenya,

We see him reading about what do re piracy and initiating a drill which becomes a real attack by two skiffs at speed from the mother ship, a captured fishing vessel, appropriate in the particular circumstances. The captain is unable to call the USA control centre( based in England) so contacts the UK who advise on the standard tactics while relaying the message. It is evident that not much can then be achieved until an attack is confirmed and naval ships deployed with drones and helicopters. In this instance a fake message that naval ships and aircraft are being deployed causes one skiff to return home but the other led my Musa, a man who had capture craft before but wants a major prize is determined to do what has to be done, but his skiff breaks down and he has to return to his mother vessel but he decides to pursue again once repairs are undertaken.

Captain Phillips has issues with some of the new crew who are concerned about the risk and also question his decision to sail closer to the coast as recommended, his argument being that sooner or late they will be attacked wherever they are and they can only follow the instructions of the company and the terms of their contracts. However the issue was to surface again later.

In this instance one of the fire hoses ceases to operate and this enables the skiff to get close enough to attach a ladder and climb on board and take the captain and other officers on the bridge with the rest of the crew hiding in engine area. While using the standard approach the captain also advises that one of the four pirates is in bare feet ,a young man no more than a boy so the crew leave broken glass and the young an badly cuts his feet. The captain also suggests that someone knocks out the lighting system which involves leaving the engine room and moving upwards. This is successful and he persuades the pirates to do an exchange, him for the pirate leader who the engine room men are able to capture and leave with the $30000 in the safe using a life bat a full enclosed specialist modern craft They agree to this but knock the captain back into the escape pod so they can hold him for ransom.

It is at this point that the USA government forces come into play and the film is a good portrait of their determination and professionalism, including a Somali speaking negotiator. Phase one is a destroyer type vessel but then they are joined by a helicopter carrying craft and if they are unable to stop the pod reaching land and rescuing the Captain they have orders from the White House that the Navy SEALS who have been authorised to proceed will take over command when they arrive and ensure the mission is successful. In fact the security were already on aboard on of the ships.

During the following days and nights the tension builds as Phillips tries to persuade the pirate captain to release him, take the money and go home, but their leader says he has gone too far to now turn back. Suggested that there must be a better way to live the reply is perhaps in America, At the same time faces a constant threat of mutiny from one of the other men, hot headed, wanting to shoot first including the get home and when they are abandoned by the gang organisers the desperation becomes worse. Towards the end the pirate leader is persuaded to negotiate on one of the ships where he is told his elders have come to help, but this is a ploy to separate him from the others while the navy seals are in place after the lifeboat is attached to a tow which is in fact a winch. The two navy ships then create an unsettling wash which when all three men are visible in the boat they are shot together with Phillips clearly told to sit an wear a coloured uniform sent over with food and water. He does not expect to survive and writes a message for his family.

He is shown recovering in a state of shock after his release and being told his family have been advised and he will be able to speak with them on recovery. The film discloses that he returned to sea in 2010 about a year after these events and that the pirate leader is now serving a term of 33 years in the United States. I agree that the in the role of Phillips Tom Hanks acts very well and he is likely to be an Oscar contender However just as with Cate Blanchette in Blue Jasmine Unlike last year I regard neither as super outstanding in terms of their films as a whole.

Captain Phillips had intended to study law, switched to sea but worked as a cabbie and married a nurse . They have two children. He was 57 at the time of he hijacking and he and his wife questioned the continuing sea going away from his family. I learned that the lifeboat had ten days of food and water with the Destroyer Bainbridge and Frigate Halliburton . The rescued Cargo ship was taken to Mombassa where a former captain took command for the rest of the journey deployed . One of the crew sued the firm on the grounds that the Captain had ignored warnings not to go so close to the mainland. The action was on behalf of eight other crew members and the outcome is unknown, Muse whose had was stabbed by a crew member in the film and in reality was claimed by his parents to be as young as sixteen but was tried as an adult and charged with two other piracy actions which he admitted to.

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