Captain Phillips


Columbia Pictures


Rating: PG-13


Reason for the Rating: Sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use


Plot Summary: A cargo ship is overtaken by Somali pirates, and the ship’s captain is taken hostage for ransom.


PopFam Recommends: An interesting movie to watch with older teens, Captain Phillips will spark thoughtful discussions on global topics.


Most of us remember when the Maersk Alabama was taken by pirates and its captain taken hostage on a lifeboat. If you ever wondered what happened, and what it must have been like for Captain Phillips, then this movie is one you want to see.


Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) is just a normal guy, except that he leaves his family and travels to Oman regularly to captain a cargo ship down the coast of West Africa. Which is dangerous, not because of the weather or icebergs, but because of Somali pirates that regularly prey on unarmed ships as they travel by in international waters. While Capt. Phillips and his wife aren't crazy about the idea, a man still has to work.


Which is also the viewpoint of the pirates. Fisherman by trade, they are unable to work and support their families, due to illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste, so these men have turned to piracy in an effort to survive. Which is an interesting bit of information, but since the movie is told from the perspective of Capt Phillips, and we see the life threatening situation he's placed in, it's really not an argument that brings much sympathy. As Captain Phillips says, "You're not just fishermen!"


I read the director, Paul Greengrass, didn't allow the actors playing the Maersk Alabama crew to meet the actors playing the Somali pirates until they were shooting the scene where the pirates come aboard in an effort to increase the tension. It worked. This is a thriller like none you've ever seen. Even though we all know the outcome, the suspense and apprehension felt in this movie is real. When the lead pirate, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), comes aboard, pointing a gun and demanding to know where the crew is, it leaves you on the edge of your seat. When the crew is hiding in the engine room, and Muse is coming around the corner, you'll find yourself holding your breath along with the crew. Although Muse is a compassionate pirate, he's clearly more interested in money and his own safety than that of his hostage.


Speaking of the hostage, what a horrible place to kept in...a closed up lifeboat. It was not only hot and the perfect environment for getting seasick, but he was with captors who felt threatened. Paul Greengrass did an outstanding job of allowing the audience to feel what Capt Phillips was experiencing, and Tom Hanks was, as usual, excellent in his portrayal of Richard Phillips throughout the film. This is a movie that takes you someplace you never want to be, and will cause you to wonder at the ability of the human spirit to endure.


As you can imagine, due to the intensity of the situation being portrayed and the violence shown, this is not an ideal movie for grade school children to watch. Thankfully, it's now on DVD, and available to watch at a convenient time for parents and older kids. Don't expect any specials on the DVD though. Even though it's a perfect movie for background information, the movie is the only thing on the DVD. It's still a movie you'll want to rent, or, even better and if it's still available in a theater near you, to see on the big screen. It's that good!


Let’s Talk About It

Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:


• What surprised you about this movie? About the Somali pirates?


• The Somali's felt they didn't have any other option than to hold cargo ships hostage for money, due to their economic situation. Does being in a hopeless situation justify violence on others? Defend your answer.


• What impressed you the most about Capt. Phillips? Why?




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