Somali Pirates Hold Captain Hostage in Navy SEAL Rescue Thriller

Susie Stillwell | 10/17/2013, 2 p.m. | Updated on 10/17/2013, 2 p.m.
I just previewed the movie Captain Phillips and found it to be exhilarating, on the edge if my seat drama ...

On April 9, 2009, the Maersk Alabama, an American container ship headed for Mombasa, Kenya, was hijacked on the high seas in an area that had become very popular with Somali pirates preying on international commerce. Despite having recently practiced evasive maneuvers in the event of just such an attack, the vessel’s 20-man crew’s flare gun and fire hoses proved no match for the fearless, heavily-armed quartet high on an herbal stimulant called chat.

After climbing aboard, the drug-emboldened buccaneers abandoned the idea of commandeering the cumbersome, 500+ foot-long craft carrying 17,000 metric tons of cargo, since all they were really after was a multi-million-dollar ransom. Instead, they opted to take Captain Richard Phillips Tom Hanks,  hostage on one of his own lifeboats as a very valuable bargaining chip.

However, when their demands fell on deaf ears, a standoff ensued in the middle of the ocean. Soon, a destroyer stationed near the Gulf of Aden, the USS Bainbridge, was dispatched to the scene, and its Captain, Frank Castellano (Yul Vasquez), feigned negotiating while simultaneously securing permission from President Obama to hatch a daring rescue plan.

Directed by Paul Greengrass (United 93), Captain Phillips is certain to invite comparison to the somewhat similarly-plotted Zero Dark Thirty, given how both recount a real-life mission mounted by a crack team of Navy SEALS. The difference, however, is that this adventure amounts to little more than a high-anxiety orgy of worry unfolding from the perspective of the imperiled kidnap victim, while the relatively-cerebral Zero Dark Thirty devoted most of its attention to delineating the intricate details involved in the complicated manhunt for Osama bin Laden.

This movie repeatedly makes the presumably politically-correct point of reminding us that these madmen are not Muslim terrorists, but without offering much of a hint as to their motivations besides money. Nevertheless, Tom Hanks does bring his A-game here, even if he’s cooped-up in close quarters acting opposite a B-support cast (Barkhad Abdirahaman, Mahat M. Ali, Barkhad Abdi and Faysal Ahmed) for the bulk of the picture.

Unfortunately, his one-note abductors are painted as soulless, primitive natives right out of a typical Tarzan flick. Sure, the bloodlust payoff is bigger when the bad guys are the frightening embodiment of pure evil with no redeeming qualities. Yet, this production would’ve benefited immeasurably from just a little development of the villains’ characters.

Meet for the first time: Barkhad Abdi

Working as supporting actor besides Tom Hanks.

Barkhad Abdi has won the Hollywood lottery!

Born in Somalia, Abdi moved to the Minneapolis area as a youngster and a few years ago decided to attend an open casting call for a Tom Hanks movie along with three of his childhood friends. To their surprise … they were actually cast in the movie! Now, Abdi and his pals (Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, and Mahat M. Ali) can be seen starring opposite two-time Academy Award-winner Tom Hanks in the new Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum, United 93) film Captain Phillips.

Captain Phillips is based on the true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, which was the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years. In the film, Abdi plays Muse, the leader of the Somali pirates who forges a reluctant and strange relationship with Phillips during the ordeal. Abdi’s real-life friends, Abdirahman, Ahmed, and Ali, play Muse’s pirate cohorts. The screenplay was written by Billy Ray (The Hunger Games), and based on Phillips' book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea.”