Boomeresque:Definition
1. Adj.: Describing a person born between 1 Jan. 1946 and 31 Dec. 1964
2. Adj.: Description of a person, place or thing possessing Baby Boomer je ne sais quoi
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Captain Phillips — A Boomeresque Movie Review

by Suzanne Fluhr on October 17, 2013 · 38 comments

The Maersk Alabama in Mombasa, Kenya after the piracy ordeal.

As Boomeresque readers know, the fact that I have no credentials as a film critic, has not dissuaded me from offering my two cents in the past, so here’s my take after seeing the movie Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks.

Unless you were living on another planet in 2009, you know that Somali pirates boarded the Maersk Alabama, a container cargo ship traveling approximately 250 miles off the coast of Somalia. (Spoiler Alert: If you were, in fact, living on another planet in 2009, stop reading now).

Captain Phillips' ship, the Maersk Alabama in Mombasa, Kenya after the piracy ordeal.

Captain Phillips’ ship, the Maersk Alabama in Mombasa, Kenya after the piracy ordeal.

It turned out to be a very bad trip. Although the four pirates failed in their plan to hijack the ship to Somalia and hold it for ransom, they did manage to seize the ship’s master, Captain Phillips, leave with him in the ship’s enclosed life boat and head towards Somalia, hoping to at least be able to secure a ransom for him. After a nightmarish five days, Captain Phillips was rescued by the 21st century version of the cavalry — U.S. Navy warships and a team of Navy Seals.

The film manages to be suspenseful for its entire 2 hours and 14 minutes even though you walk into the movie theater knowing full well that things are going to end badly for the pirates and Captain Phillips is going to survive to write a book about the ordeal. You know three immensely skilled Seal snipers are going to take out the three pirates remaining in the lifeboat with Phillips, firing from the moving deck of the Navy ship into the bobbing lifeboat – a closed vessel with limited visibility. You’re waiting for it to happen, but it’s still gasp-worthy when it does.

The lifeboat of the Maersk Alabama in which Captain Phillips was held hostage for 5 days by Somali pirates.

The lifeboat of the Maersk Alabama in which Captain Phillips was held hostage for 5 days by Somali pirates.

The acting and cinematography made the film completely believable. My mind never left the action to “observe” any special effects. From interviews I’ve read and seen with Tom Hanks and the director, Paul Greengrass (the Bourne films, Flight 93), the movie was filmed in real world settings as much as possible — on a real cargo container ship and on a real Navy warship. Director Greengrass maximized the verisimilitude by not allowing the Somali-Americans portraying the pirates and Tom Hanks to meet before they burst onto the bridge of the ship with their automatic assault weapons.

During the days in the cramped, stifling lifeboat, we feel the hours of uncomfortable “boredom” and moments of terror as it becomes obvious that the Somalis are in way over their heads and are becoming increasingly unhinged and dangerous as they feel withdrawal effects from khat, the stimulant plant leaves they chewed until they exhausted their supply. In the film, a real Navy corpsman (woman) performed Tom Hanks/Captain Phillips’ post rescue medical exam. Her controlled professional competence in a cramped ship’s examination room is effectively juxtaposed with the post traumatic stress portrayed by Tom Hanks, still covered in the pirates’ blood from the frighteningly close sniper shots.

I did not have the same reaction to this movie as the Philadelphia Inquirer’s film critic, Steven Rea. He maintained, “This is a story about human beings put to the test – facing profound challenges, and their own fears, doubts, inadequacies. We watch these films and wonder about ourselves, about who we are, why we are here, what we would do”. Maybe (probably) I’m a flawed human being, but I did not find myself wondering that at all. Perhaps the setting, on the high seas off the Horn of Africa, is just too alien to cause me to ponder how I would have reacted; whereas, those thoughts did cross my mind watching coverage of the Sandy Hook School shootings and the first responders’ bravery on the day of the Boston Marathon bombing.

While it would have been easy to succumb to presenting Captain Phillips’ story as a “cowboys and Indian shoot ‘em up” (there is, indeed, the perhaps de rigueur scene of brave Seals parachuting into the darkness), the film does not let us off that easily. In an early scene, we see the miserableness and fear in a Somali fishing village as what seem like vicious armed warlords ride up and berate the villagers for not bringing in enough “loot”. The pirates are quick to tell Captain Phillips that they are not Al Queda, that the attempted high seas hijacking is all about money. After the U.S. Navy shows up, one gets the sense that these pirates (reed thin and dressed essentially in rags) are just as afraid of their “boss” should they return empty handed as they are of confronting the military might of the United States.

The feeling I had at the end of the film was thankfulness that through the accident of birth, a lone American in these dreadful circumstances, could look out a porthole and see that Uncle Sam sent the United States Navy to his rescue.

[Postscript: The film captures some labor management friction before the real drama starts as Captain Phillips suggests that some members of the crew not overextend their coffee break. When Captain Phillips is giving orders to prepare the ship for the possible pirate attack, one seaman mumbles, “I’m in the union and I didn’t sign up for this”. These hints make it not surprising to learn that some crew members have filed suit against the Maersk company, alleging that Captain Phillips was negligent in allowing the ship to be too close to the Somali coast.

Throughout the hijacking, as the crew rigged power water hoses around the perimeter of the ship to try to avoid being boarded by the pirates, one does wonder why there were not stronger shipboard security measures given that the risk of piracy was well known. The Maersk Alabama had no security personnel on board and it did not seem that the crew even had access to any firearms. Apparently, lightning can strike twice. There was another hijacking attempt on the Maersk Alabama later in 2009. It was thwarted by a professional armed force aboard the ship.]

Have you seen the film, “Captain Phillips”? If so, what is your opinion of the movie? (If you are planning to see it, come back and let us know what you think.)

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Tom Bartel October 18, 2013 at 7:06 am

I know one of those SEALS. Wouldn’t think it would be a very good idea to come up against them under any circumstances.

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) October 18, 2013 at 1:51 pm

No better friend. No worse enemy. I think technically, that’s a US Marine motto, but it probably applies to the Navy Seals in spades.

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avatar Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) October 18, 2013 at 9:34 am

I haven’t seen the movie though I will probably see it when it comes to pay per view. I enjoy seeing how the writers write the characters in these epic real life events. It always make me wonder how much they have expanded the personalities, as they can’t really change the real life events so much!

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) October 18, 2013 at 1:53 pm

I haven’t read Captain Phillips’ account of the events, so I don’t know how far the film strayed. I imagine that the brief back story of these particular pirates was an addition, but that added some of the depth to the story, taking it from a “and then this happened and then that happened” narrative.

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avatar Steven Albelda October 18, 2013 at 10:07 am

I agree. Like a greek tragedy- you know what is coming from the beginning but still enjoy the ride.

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avatar Roz Warren October 18, 2013 at 12:46 pm

An action adventure movie about labor management friction! I’d go to see that. Thanks for the review.

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avatar Mike October 18, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Suzanne, I have not seen it yet but I was too excited and couldn’t resist seeing that you had written a movie review, my friend. So, I had to read it and your post is AMAZINGLY awesome. I remember the real life event quite clearly from the news. Interesting take on your inner thoughts with the Sandy Hill (assume you meant Sandy Hook?) shootings. What I had forgotten about was the lawsuits filed by some of the crew. I can’t wait to see it and your review only has me more motivated to go now. This was an absolutely fantastic read and I love it! 🙂

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) October 18, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Mike, I appreciate the praise coming from you because I know you are a movie aficionado. Thanks for the Sandy Hill correction. I’m going to go back and edit that. Having read some of your movie reviews, I think you will find this film absorbing — to say the least.

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avatar Neva October 18, 2013 at 2:55 pm

By the time I see a movie, I’ve read many reviews and your comments make me eager to see the movie. Tom Hanks explained on Dave Letterman’s show that they found Somali’s to portray the pirated in Minnesota. He asked the audience “why are you laughing?” I guess everyone expected them to be living in Somali. Thanks for the review, I enjoyed it.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr October 18, 2013 at 5:33 pm

The laughter might have been because the stereotype of Minnesota and that of Somalia seem so antithetical. I seriously walked out of the movie theater thinking this about the Somalis: “There but for the grace of God……”

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avatar Patti October 18, 2013 at 3:05 pm

You’re the 3rd person to tell me how much they enjoyed (is that the right word for such an intense story) the movie and the other 2 thought Tom would be up for an Oscar for this one. We so rarely go to the movies, but I look forward to seeing it when I can do so for $1.20 from Redbox. Ha!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr October 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm

It will be up against some stiff Oscar competition from Gravity and Twelve Years a Slave ( neither of which I’ve seen). There is also conjecture that Robert Redford might be a shoo in for best actor because he is the only person in his new film and apparently pulls of the roll.

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avatar Cathy Sweeney October 19, 2013 at 2:39 pm

The hubby has been suggesting that we see Captain Phillips this weekend. I’m willing to give him a “yes” on that after reading your review — you’re such an influencer, Suzanne! I think your take on the movie is much better than the “expert reviews”. 🙂

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr October 19, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Thanks, Cathy. Does this mean you’ll hold me responsible if you hate it?

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avatar Sandra Sallin October 20, 2013 at 1:20 am

I am so looking forward to seeing this film. Some people say it will win the oscar. Tom Hanks always seem to chose to act in excellent movies so can’t wait to see this one.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr October 20, 2013 at 1:38 am

Sandra, thanks for stopping by. Please come back and tell us what you think of the film after you see it.

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avatar Madaline Fluhr October 20, 2013 at 4:02 am

Enjoyed this review – have not seen the movie – but as noted by several other responders – you make it sound a film worth viewing. I like how you summarize the events, providing context and perspective in a well rounded non-judgmental manner. I like also how a bit of the patriot in you comes through. We are well past the Vietnam era when our cynicism knew no bounds, when we “boomers” were formulating our values and world views and we took strong not particularly nuanced stands about the military and the “man” in whatever form he took. We’ve matured as a generation. When I read your posts I think the “history major” in you always comes through in some way and I like that. I always feel like I’m learning something, but in a non-pedantic manner, always laced with humor, so it’s never dry, but always illuminating, thought provoking and fun! I think you would have been a great college level history professor!

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque) October 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Mads, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you were sucking up to your big sister. You may have noticed by the two films I’ve reviewed that I’m drawn to movies with an historical aspect. I also tend to read non-fiction. Some people chalk that up to a lack of creativity. 😉

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avatar Debra Yearwood October 20, 2013 at 7:11 am

I haven’t seen the movie but do remember hearing about the rescue a few years back. I didn’t put myself in the shoes of Captain Phillips or his crew either. It’s imply not a situation I can imagine being in.

I like the point you make about what it must feel like to know that your fellow countrymen have your back if you find yourself in a difficult situation. I know he was terribly traumatized, but there also has to be some pride in knowing you can be protected even in what seems like impossible circumstances.

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque) October 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm

This film underscores how the “accident” of where one is born can so determine one’s fate.

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avatar Catarina October 20, 2013 at 7:55 am

Have not watched the movie but you make it sound like a good movie.

What happened with this ship as well as the multitude of other ships hijacked by Somali pirates is the result of Somalia being a failed state. It’s true that it’s not Al Queda, it’s all about money. Desparate people do desparate things. That’s not to excuse what the pirates are doing. But would they hijack ships if they had other ways of supporting themselves?

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avatar Becc October 20, 2013 at 8:53 pm

I actually had no desire to see this movie until now. I think I may just give it a shot. Plus Tom Hanks is an incredible actor.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr October 20, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Becc, if you end up seeing the movie, come back and tell us what you think about it.

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avatar Doreen Pendgracs October 21, 2013 at 11:10 pm

I have to admit to not having time for movies these days. Once in awhile, we’ll watch a movie on satellite, and very rarely, will actually go to a movie theatre. It’s just not convenient when you live in the country. Cheers!

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avatar Susan Cooper October 22, 2013 at 1:11 am

I want to see this movie. I really think Tom Hanks is a great actor. I’ll let you know what I think. Thanks for the review. 🙂

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avatar Joanne October 22, 2013 at 9:07 am

I’ve been hearing a lot about this movie. I even heard an interview with the real Captain Phillips (not about the movie but about the incident) and I love Tom Hanks that I am most curious. I love that you did not have the same reaction as the critic. I smiled to myself when I read his comment. I don’t think many people go to movies to reflect on who we are – we want the adventure and I appreciate a blog from a real person than a “skilled critic” who doesn’t see it like the rest of the world. 🙂 Thanks for the review.

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avatar Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 22, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Definitely look forward to seeing these moments acted. Such an inspiring story of heroism. Being a veteran, it always fills me with pride to see things kinds of tales relived. You have a knack for this film review thing. Keep it up!

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) November 26, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Chris you are too kind. Our next stop is Thailand, so I will be over to check out your blog—-immediately!

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avatar Elizabeth Scott October 22, 2013 at 1:25 pm

I want to see this movie and to see if Hollywood has done the story justice. I am a huge fan of Tom Hanks and he can really bring the emotion into his roles.

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avatar Jeri October 22, 2013 at 6:40 pm

I’ll probably save this one for viewing on DVD, but I am looking forward to it. I’m thankful you’ve noted it’s not a cowboy vs Indian scenario. That give me hope that the story has had justice done to it.

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avatar Patricia Weber October 25, 2013 at 10:53 am

Thanks so much for the review Suzanne. This is one of two pics my husband has tossed out in conversation if we decide to go the my favorite local movie theatre this weekend. His other choice is Gravity. Have you seen that one? What do you think?

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr October 25, 2013 at 11:15 am

Thanks for stopping by, Patricia. I haven’t seen Gravity, but our son did and thought it was very good. He recommended seeing it in 3D. I think both are good choices. If you see Captain Phillips, come back and tell us what you thought of it.

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avatar Patricia Weber October 27, 2013 at 8:41 am

Suzanne, hubby selected Captain Phillips for last nights movie watch in the theatre. We both found it quite the docudrama. That’s what I called it. It was fast moving, probably opposite to the real experience for the real Phillips.

That made me wonder, how could we ever really relate to the fear and terror? Also, what was his reason for steering his ship away from the fleet going in the same direction? Hanks portrayed Phillips as a leader acting brilliantly under pressure, but it kept nagging me, why did he do that?

To me, the last scene when he was rescued, gave a glimpse of Hanks as the fabulous actor he is. Barkhad Abdi, Muse the Somalian pirate leader – awesome! His first acting role.

If you want to see it though, it would be just a well to see it on PayPerView or DVD. There was little dramatic effect in my mind to see it on the big screen.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr October 27, 2013 at 5:49 pm

It’s true about not needing a big screen to see this movie. The director avoided spectacular, (but fakey) special effects.

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avatar Niekka McDonald October 26, 2013 at 8:27 pm

I don’t go to the movies much I normally wait for the dvd. If it comes to the $1 movie maybe I will check it out. I love Tom Hanks and I remember when this story broke. I’m curious to see how the writers captured the story.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr October 27, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Niekka, thanks for stopping by. As I mentioned in my response to Patricia, I think this is one film that will not overly suffer by being seen on a small screen. And, you’ll be able to bring your own popcorn!

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avatar Robert Fowler @Boomer Places December 9, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I have been looking for a move to see in this dreadful winter weather that has me house bound and I had forgotten about this one. I am sure it is good with Tom Hanks in it. I enjoyed reading your review. Now to see if I can find it On Demand on cable.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr December 9, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you find the film on demand. If you’re in the northeast U.S., the weather isn’t improving just yet.

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