The film is based on the 2009 hijacking of an American cargo container ship, the Maersk Alabama, by Somali pirates who subsequently took Captain Richard Phillips hostage, played by Tom Hanks here. Eventually, US military forces save the day in impressive fashion, but the movie is as much about Captain Phillips’ own efforts to keep his crew safe, his experience being held captive, and essentially why it sucks to be a Somali.
…which puts a lot of my rants about certain movies squarely in First-World Problems territory.
Beyond the movie being an well-made thriller filled with moments of tension and suspense, you’ll inevitably empathize with just about everyone involved, except maybe that one hyper-aggressive Somali pirate who seemed to always make the situation needlessly worse for everyone involved. You’ll be torn by knowing that the pirates must be doing this out of some measure of legitimate poverty and desperation even if warlords are involved and reaping the majority of the profits. You’ll be torn by suspecting the ransom would’ve been cheaper than mobilizing all those Navy ships and special ops teams to eventually save the hostage. You’re torn because you also know the principle of not paying the ransom or otherwise negotiating with terrorists is valid as well.
You’ll think of these things and how horribly unfair the world is…at least for the few hours you’re thinking about the film. Then, life will go on and the world will continue turning, but that moment of thought was still better than none.