In April 2009 four Somali pirates took down a US flagged vessel, the Maersk Alabama. The take-down got messy, and resulted in the ship’s captain taken hostage aboard one of the Maersk’s life boats. On April 12th, the hostage situation ended when SEAL snipers (from DEVGRU) flawlessly executed three pirates with simultaneous shots in the dark of the night, and on a moving platform at sea.
The movie (adapted from the book) Captain Phillips is largely less SEAL Team, and more about the experience of Rich Phillips during his ordeal as a Somali hostage. Less SEAL focus is one of the things I appreciated most about this movie. First, go see it, it starts a little slow but ends up delivering.
I’ll openly admit my bias, I find it hard to read a Brad Thor book or watch action movies because I always find some fault with them with regards to accuracy or mis-used military terminology.Where I feel most let down in this movie is in the actual SEAL Team portrayal. Human growth hormone big SEALs (not accurate), no weapon close-ups, and corny phraseology, to name just a few.
While I am thankful Matt Bissonette wasn’t on set providing the same level of detail he did when he led the SEAL consulting team for Medal of Honor (the active duty guys all received NJP), I thought the SEAL scenes could have had better Computer Generated Images (CGI) or paid more attention to detail when it came to military realisms. The production company could have taken their pick on this one. An example of this is seen in Act of Valor (ultra realistic action), and the Bourne Legacy (great CGI). The lack of weapons close-ups will leave the action, and Airsoft junkies wanting.
Some things you may not know that were left out of the movie
- The SEALs shot the pirates using night vision and lasers
- Forces on scene recommended drugging the pirates and Phillips as an alternative to killing them. This was declined by higher ups (cough, cough…The White House). When this alternative method was declined the on scene commander gave word to take the pirates out. Good call if you ask me.
- A Somali interpreter jumped in with the SEALs, in a tandem sky dive rig, into shark infested water at night. I heard he was terrified to jump.
- All DEVGRU trained snipers are trained through the Naval Special Warfare/SEAL sniper course.
- Crews in 2009 were not allowed to carry firearms. This has changed now.
- Some ships now deployed directed sound energy to repel pirates.
- The regular Navy guys that resupplied Phillips and the pirates with food and water were actually real SEALs dressed as regular Navy crewman.
- Foreign fisherman have significantly depleted the once fertile fishing waters off the coast of Somalia. They now turn to piracy as a means to make a living.
- Most piracy hostages off Somalia are ransomed off. On the opposite coast, near Nigeria, most are executed and the cargo sold off via the black market.
- In 2012, three years after Phillips was taken hostage, there were over 50 pirate attacks off the Somali coast with over 170 hostages and 12 ships being held for ransom.
Go see it, Tom Hanks gives an excellent performance, and truly takes us inside Phillips’ head before and after he’s taken hostage.
Main photo: Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images