My beef with “Captain Phillips”

Emily Eveland

“Captain Phillips” frustrated the hell out of me. First of all, the couple next to me decided to bring their three-year-old daughter to the theater and gave her a smartphone, which she shrieked about and shined in my eyes for the duration of film. Additionally, her parents decided to explain the film to her in full volume as events unfolded. Cue more shrieks. But the real cause of my frustration was “Captain Phillips” itself.

 

Before I commence my mini-rant, I’d like to mention that the film in brilliantly shot and never ceases to hold your attention. Big ships have never looked so good. If there was a Playboy magazine for cargo ships, “Captain Phillips” would have a ten-page spread.

 

Okay, beef time. The movie is told from an entirely Western perspective. There’s little to no talk of the socio-economic conditions that might lead someone to piracy, which leaves a lot of room for people to make assumptions about Somalis, Africans in general and the continent as a whole. And honestly, there’s enough of that already.  

 

By the end of “Captain Phillips,” I was sick with the sounds of ignorant patriotism — there was an explosion of laughter from the movie theater audience when three of the four Somali pirates were shot and killed by snipers. I don’t know if it was the killing or the crowd’s reaction that did it, but I was sobbing by the end of the film, completely disgusted by the experience.

 

Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one disappointed by the portrayal of Somali pirates in “Captain Phillips.” Kaizer Matsumunyane, a Canada-based filmmaker, made a documentary about the Maersk hijacking from Muse’s, the main Somali pirate’s, perspective. The Somali pirates who hijacked the ship were not monsters. They weren’t cut-and-dry bad guys. They were teenage boys trying to survive in the face of poverty.