Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

October 8, 2013

CALLERI: Will to survive and succeed are at the center of two new films

Niagara Gazette — Heroism is the focus of two movies that explore how determined men deal with roadblocks in their calm and ordered lives. Both films are based on actual events.

“Captain Phillips” is about a merchant marine captain who knows instinctively that flashy heroics won’t work during the hijacking of his massive cargo ship by teen-aged pirates in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia. In “Still Mine,” a Canadian farmer becomes a hero by fighting a government bureaucracy eager to stop his mission to find a solution to problems created by the physical challenges faced by his beloved wife.

In the hostage drama, Tom Hanks plays Richard Phillips, the captain of the cargo ship Maersk Alabama. In April of 2009, it was seized by four pirates, all of them impossibly young and acting under orders by a warlord running his operations from the Somalian coast. Phillips was taken off the ship and placed in a small covered boat.

Over the course of a few days, as negotiations for the release of Phillips and the huge ocean-going vessel were being carried out, the U.S. Navy accessed the situation, and then acted with military precision. Even though we know what happened involving the sea-borne snipers, the movie works as well as it does because director Paul Greengrass and screenwriter Billy Ray not only concentrate on the tension surrounding the piracy, but also, by necessity, open up the film by trying to tell some human interest stories. Ray based his script on the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea” by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty.

We see Phillips and his wife, played by Catherine Keener, before he joins the Maesrk Alabama for its journey, giving us a sense of their close relationship. Mrs. Phillips has totems she believes in so that her veteran sea-going husband has safe trips. We also watch the youthful pirates on land and learn about their meager existence before they are ordered to take the ship, which was carrying almost 17,000 metric tons of cargo.

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