Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

High Stakes on the High Seas 'Captain Phillips' Captures the Terror and Tension of 2009 Hijacking off Somalia Coast

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

High Stakes on the High Seas 'Captain Phillips' Captures the Terror and Tension of 2009 Hijacking off Somalia Coast

Article excerpt

Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) makes it clear from the beginning that he's not there to pamper or befriend the crew of the Maersk Alabama.

His job is to command the ship loaded with 2,400 tons of commercial cargo and 200 tons of food aid and other goods in colorful containers stacked like Legos the size of train cars. "About done with that coffee?" he asks some of the crew taking a break early in "Captain Phillips."

Before their journey is over, however, he is willing to give his life for these men and the task at hand.

He is an experienced merchant mariner who lives in Vermont with his family, including his nurse-wife who tells him on the way to the airport, "I know this is what we do, this is our life but it seems the world is moving so fast."

They share worries large and small but neither has any idea they will be caught in the vise grip of the conflict between the haves and the have-nots: The Alabama vs. the Somali pirates who hijack the container ship and plan to ransom it or its captain.

"Captain Phillips" dramatizes the events of 2009 when seafaring Somalis targeted the Alabama but didn't count on the experience, shrewdness or bravery of the New Englander. (Whether that slid into foolhardiness or was fueled by corporate greed that put the crew at risk is another matter, headed for the courts.)

When he first sees an alert about pirates, the captain orders unannounced security drills but soon finds himself in a real-world situation with armed men speeding toward the vessel.

The Vermonter initially outsmarts them but they seize control of the ship, guns and tempers blazing, with the calmest, most commanding of the lot a skinny young man named Muse (Barkhad Abdi). "Look at me. Look at me," he orders. "I'm the captain now."

And thus begins a potentially deadly game of cat and mouse on and off the Alabama, with lives of pirates, hostages and potential rescuers at stake. …

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