Movie Review: Captain Philips

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The film, Captain Philips, is an adaptation of the hijacking of the US MV Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates in 2009. The event motivated the creation of the movie as the Maersk Alabama had been the first United States cargo ships to be hijacked in East African waters in over 200 years (Greengrass). Therefore, during the film shooting, some important ideas were communicated using various film techniques.

First, the film represented a lot of the economic hardships experienced by people in Somali. This perspective is illustrated in different cinematography techniques (Heiderich 3) through the movie depicted by how the Somali pirates are presented. Abduwali Muse is shot as sleeping in a basic hut and on the floor when he is woken up by the young boy after the arrival of the mercenaries (Greengrass). Also, the mercenaries force the Somali pirates to find something for their boss warlord, Garaad, at gun point. Therefore, the pirates did not engage in pirate activities out of their will but because situations forced them to. Another technique used by the filmmaker to illustrate the economic hardships in Somalia is construction and composition (Heiderich 4) of the Somali characters. The composition of the Somali pirates is of men with haggard faces and skeletal bodies. Their clothes are not decent, and they hang loosely on their seemingly weak bodies (Greengrass). In this context, the filmmaker symbolizes the extreme poverty and what it can make people do.

Heroism depicted by Captain Philips is illustrated by use of a low angle camera shot technique (Heiderich 8) making the audience look up to the character when the Pirates enter the bridge. The Pirates glare at the captain as if he is a threat and hold a gun to him in an attempt to intimidate him. The camera focuses on the captain to show a clear view of his emotions which are of concern and fear suggesting the tension at this point. Also, the Pirates are in darker clothes, compared to the captain’s clothes to make him the object of interest and focus on his facial expressions to illustrate his concern for the crew (Greengrass).

The movie is an illustration of modern piracy and the reasons that force the modern pirates to engage in such activities. As seen in the film, the pirates were only in need of money. When offered the thirty thousand dollars in the safe, after much deliberations, the Pirates agree to take the money but also the captain so as to demand ransom for his release (Greengrass).

Perspectives of the audiences can however differ. While some view it as a plot on modern piracy, others might see it as an illustration of the neglect of the United States corporate and ship operators who directed the ship to sail so close to the known pirate invested waters. This notion is further emphasized by the critics who argue that the ship violated the maritime law directing ships not to sail closer than 680miles from the coast. In this aspect, therefore, the Maersk which was only 270miles when the pirates seized it was deep into the danger zone (Greengrass). The captain is, therefore, no hero but an ignorant man who risked the lives of his crew. There are various reasons why people might interpret the film differently. The reasons depend on the kind of connection an audience holds towards the events illustrated in the movie. For example, a person who was affected by such a situation may not view the captain as a hero. On the ither hand, someone else with no prior connection to such an event will look up to the captain and share his concern for the crew when the pirates attacked. He willingly sacrificed himself to be captured so as to save his team (Greengrass).

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