In 2009, an American cargo ship was taken over by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean on its way to Africa. Captain Richard Phillips helped to save his crew and in turn was taken captive in a lifeboat until the U.S. Navy intervened. After the ordeal was over, he wrote a book about his experience, which was turned into this 2013 film starring Tom Hanks.
The film begins with Phillips (Hanks) packing for his 12-day trip. His wife accompanies him to the airport and then he is on the ship securing it for the journey. He expresses concern to his second mate about security mentioning that he’s read about pirates in the area recently. He’s a no non-sense man, who takes his life seriously. And though you can tell he loves his job, he is eager for each trip to be over so he can go home to his family.
Over in Somalia, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), a pirate who just wants to make money for his boss, as this is clearly the only way to make a living along the coast, gathers a ‘crew’ in order to take over a ship in the Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile, Phillips gets an email warning of pirates in the area. The email contains specific instructions of who to alert and what to do if the ship is approached by pirates. With this information, Phillips orders the crew to perform a drill and get the hoses ready. While the drill is going on, he notices small boats coming into the path of the ship. He tells the crew it’s no longer a drill. The crew can’t get in touch with the first group, so when they call the group in the email, they are just told to sit tight, sound their horns and get the hoses ready.
On a whim, as the boats get closer, Phillips pretends that Navy planes are coming into the area to protect the ship, knowing the pirates would intercept the message on their radios. Sure enough, one boat turns around. However, Muse keeps at it. His boat’s engine finally gives out, as Phillips orders his ship to pick up speed.
Sensing the pirates will come back, he orders the ship to be extra secure, though his crew is scared as they have no weapons to protect themselves. Sure enough, the next day, Muse and his crew are back with two engines to get them onto the ship. Phillips orders his crew to hide in the engine room and not to come out unless he says the password. Muse threatens Phillips and the two crew members left with him. Phillips basically plays mind games, or tries to, in order to eventually get Muse around the ship and away from his crew. Muse is too smart though, and after one of his guys is injured, he decides to explore the engine room alone. The crew members turn the tables and take him captive. Phillips makes a deal to let Muse go with $30,000 and a lifeboat, if the pirates leave the ship without incident. Muse agrees. However, in a last minute decision, he takes Phillips captive in the lifeboat.
After the lifeboat takes off, the ship’s crew calls in the U.S. Navy. There are orders to use any means necessary to save Phillips before the boat gets to shore. There are a lot of tense moments and you almost believe for a minute that Phillips won’t make it. And then you realize it’s a true story. The moments when the pirates are killed are pretty crazy.