First of all, this movie is not Best Picture Oscar material. It just isn’t. Having said that, let me say that it is a crackerjack thriller, tense almost from the opening scenes, beautifully filmed (though I’m glad I saw it on our high-def TV instead of in the theater, as almost every shot is a neck-breaking shakycam). The tension builds on a straight line that rises right to the final frames, where three Navy Seals pull off what has to be three of the all-time great sniper shots from the rolling deck of a Navy ship. Tom Hanks is even better than usual, and the newcomer, Barkhad Abdi, a Yemen and Minnesota-educated Somali, certainly deserved his Oscar nomination.
It sure gets you thinking, too. It’s totally ridiculous that four men, armed only with automatic rifles, can bring a giant container ship to its knees. Why aren’t the crew armed? If they don’t want to be armed—and I can understand that—why aren’t there mercenaries standing watch 24/7 with fifty-caliber machine guns and rockets? One rocket would have been all it took to send those fucking pirates to Davy Jones. If this happened a dozen times or more, the pirate problem would be solved, I guarantee it.
And yeah, I understand these are poor men, and they don’t have a lot of wonderful choices. Captain Phillips tells the leader, Muse, that there must be choices between being a poor farmer and a pirate. Muse replies, “Maybe in America.” What happens is, Somalia is governed by competing warlords. The “government” is a joke. These monsters impress the poor men around them into service to make them a lot of money. At one point Muse brags that the last time he took a ship, he made ten million dollars. “Yeah?” Phillips replies. “How much of that did you get?” Muse shuts up, because both of them know it was something like $1.98, a few packs of gum, and an iPhone.
But goddamit, piracy is piracy. If you attack a ship on the high seas, the penalty is death, no trial necessary. The international shippers should put the Somalis on notice that if you come within a half mile of one of our ships, expect a rocket-propelled grenade right up your ass. You will get one warning, and one warning only. Your next warning will be explosive.