Entertainment, News

Captain Phillips : Fearless or Feckless?

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Words by Lisa Burns
Captain Richard Phillips has been immortalised in Hollywood’s latest Oscar-nomination-grabbing outing. Captain Phillips was released in the UK on 18th October, and is a real edge-of-your-seat affair.
A slow starter, it follows the real-life story of merchant mariner, Phillips, as he heroically handles the situation of his Maersk cargo ship Alabama being taken hostage by Somali pirates. As the first half of the film unfolds, we see a representation of Phillips as a natural leader, a placid family man, professional to a tee. We then see his masterful leadership of his brave crew in the hostage situation. 
The viewer cannot but look on with a mixture of horror and admiration as Phillips heroically offers himself as a Christ-like sacrificial victim in exchange for the freedom of his crew. The second half of the film gives a moment-by-moment account of Phillips’ experiences as the sole hostage in the ship’s claustrophobic lifeboat.
Barkhad Abdi
The really interesting story, however, is the one that unfolds when you take a look at the REAL Captain Phillips. The film is based on Phillips’s autobiography, A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS and Dangerous Days at Sea, which Columbia Pictures bought the rights to in 2009.
As the film was promoted and Phillips was re-thrust into the limelight, his detractors also emerged from the woodwork – but from perhaps the unlikeliest of places: his own crew.
A member of the Alabama crew (who spoke anonymously for legal reasons) said, ‘Phillips wasn’t the big leader like he was in the movie. No one wants to sail with him’. The crew member also claimed that the real Phillips refused to follow through with the anti-piracy protocol, declaring, ‘he was real arrogant.’ These claims are the complete opposite of the events retold in the film.
Richard Phillips - Rooftop: A Captain's Duty
It emerges that engineer Mike Perry, who has a small part in the film, may actually have been the real hero of the situation. He had the crew hide in the ship’s boiler room and managed to attack one of the pirates in an attempt to ensure Phillips’s safety. Some reports have branded Phillips as irresponsible and reckless with the lives of his crew; though how much of this is jealousy or an attempt to steal some of his,
perhaps deserved, limelight, is ultimately speculation.
Whoever the real Captain Phillips is, the film is thought-provoking, entertaining and certainly well worth a watch. I’ll let you decide as to whether Phillips deserves the title of hero.
Lisa Burns studies History and English at MMU. When she’s not got her nose in a book, she loves having adventures in the great outdoors! Follow her on Twitter: @LittleRobin09

About the author / 


Natalie Carragher is a lecturer in journalism at Manchester Met. She loves indie magazines and going to gigs. Follow her on Twitter @NatCarragher

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