“Capitan Phillips”: Crew Members Denounce Film As A False Account Of The Boarding Of The Maersk Alabama

Captain_Phillips_PosterI took the kids to see “Gravity” last night at a 3D IMAX theater, which was fun. I thought it was an entertaining movie but you had to suspend your disbelief (and any rudimentary scientific knowledge) at a film that is a chain of implausible or practically impossible events. (I also had to suspend my normal dislike for Sandra Bullock as an actress and not constantly hope for a catastrophic airlock failure). However, the scientific barriers to Gravity as a film pale in comparison to the historical barriers presented in the critically acclaimed movie “Captain Phillips” with Tom Hanks. I was always like Hanks as an actor and this film is being cited as one of his very best performances. Yet, there are a few critics: the crew of the Maersk Alabama who say that the film is best on a demonstrably false account and makes the wrong man the hero in the famous standoff at sea.

Crew members are irate over the movie because they insist that Phillips was a major contributor to the boarding of the cargo ship due to his refusal to take the most basic actions to avoid the coast and later to evade the pirates. Crew members describe Phillips as an unpopular captain who was self-righteous and domineering. The most serious allegations came out in a trial where 11 crew members sued Maersk Line and the Waterman Steamship Corp. for almost $50 million — largely due to the alleged failures of Phillip. He was accused of ignoring basic anti-piracy measures and repeated warnings sent to the ship about pirates in the area.

200px-RichardPhillips220px-Surveillance_photo_of_Maersk_Alabama_lifeboat,_hijacked_by_pirates_090409-N-0000X-926The lawsuit documents how Phillips was told not to go so close of the Somali coast but says that Phillips was dismissive and said that he would not allow “pirates scare him.” He is also accused of ignoring an anti-piracy plan on the ship — a common plan used by all ships. This includes a standard measure to cut off lights and power and lock themselves below decks. Phillips is accused of dismissing the plan and taking standard precautions despite the fact that, over this three-week period, 16 container ships in the same region had been attacked by pirates. Eight of those ships had been taken by pirates. This is in stark contrast to Hanks on the film who is yelling out orders to tighten security and take such measures.

It also does not show Phillips ignoring seven emails about pirates in the area and warnings not to get closer than 600 miles of the coast. Phillips reportedly took the ship 235 miles from the coast. Phillips admits it was at least 300 miles from the coast. The movie makes Phillips look like the one who is most concerned when the crew says it tried to show Phillips charts and ship locations that he ignored. They say that Phillips made them do a fire drill as pirates were chasing them and failed to order the lights to be turned off to make it more difficult for them to be followed. After a narrow escape in the first attack, Phillips ordered the ship back to the original route and went downstairs to sleep. They insist that he gave no instructions or a plan for the boarding which occurred later. These are obviously the views of crew members and not Phillips.

Perhaps the worst allegation is that the true hero of the story was relegated to a bit role in the movie. He is Chief Engineer Mike Perry, who led most of the crew downstairs and locked them in. It was Perry, not Phillips, who disabled all of the systems and it was Perry who attacked the chief pirate and used him as a bargaining chip for Phillips.

Sony may have seen the problem with the film. They paid crew members as little as $5,000 for this life rights — and reportedly an obligation to remain silent.

If these allegations are true, would that influence your decision to watch the film? The film is being given international critical acclaim for the reportedly inspired performance of Tom Hanks. Yet, it does appear to bend history to the demands of Hollywood. I have previously written about how movies often defame the dead in order to make for a better story. Of course, everyone in this film is very much alive.

Source: NY Post

29 thoughts on ““Capitan Phillips”: Crew Members Denounce Film As A False Account Of The Boarding Of The Maersk Alabama”

  1. “and inextricably went downstairs to sleep” … ???

    In the immoral (sic) words of Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  2. Jesse Smith, Let me be THE FIRST to thank you for your expertise and stopping here to give us your REAL WORLD experience and analysis. I would say some of the folks here were raised by wolves, but wolves do teach their young how to act. Some here are clueless.

  3. I saw the movie over the weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can’t speak to the degree of fictionalization, but it was a well-done movie. Tom Hanks did his usual sterling job, and the supporting cast was excellent.

    As a former naval officer, I was impressed with the improvement in technology in the Navy ships. I can only assume that it was a somewhat realistic portrayal; when last I was on a ship, there was no GPS — we had to calculate relative position by hand with a maneuvering board, parallel rules, and dividers, and had to write things down on clear Plexiglas with a grease pencil.

    Just one note to JT: There are no “stairs” in a ship, and one does not go “downstairs”. Regardless of steepness or placement, those things with steps or rungs are called “ladders: and are used to “go below” when moving in a downward direction.

    By the way, not everyone in the film is still alive — three pirates were killed during the rescue.

    1. The criticisms of Phillips by the crew have NO basis in fact as far as the movie shows. In the movie he did NOT volunteer to be a hostage, he was the victim of a double cross and an accidental hostage. The crew did their utmost to keep track of their captain, and to call for help. So to say that the captain or the film is lying is simply not true and is based mainly on the trailer previews, which does make it seem as though Phillips offered himself as a hostage. See the whole film and make up your own mind, not some greedy lawyer saying that the film is not true to life.

  4. Somalia: The worst Pirate Territory. Fly over and flush. The U.S. media ignores the crimes committed each day in those Pirate Territories. The ships they seize are taken into ports and held hostage there. Duh? Kill all pirates on the spot where they are taken. Walk the plank. Fly drones over their villages and kill their children.

  5. Phillips sounds reckless in that depo excerpt.

    I’d probably still see the movie, although knowing the factual problems may impair my enjoyment of it.

  6. Maersk Alabama crew criticizes ‘Captain Phillips’ movie
    By Drew Griffin, CNN

    The new Tom hanks movie is getting rave reviews, but also taking some heat. Captain Phillips tells the real-life story of the Maersk Alabama, a ship hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009.

    The captain was taken hostage and later hailed as a hero. Now, some of the crew members are speaking out, saying the movie gets it all wrong.

    As their captain was being lauded as a hero, the crew of the Maersk Alabama, watched and bit their tongues. No more.

    “We vowed we were gonna take it to our grave. We weren’t gonna say anything. Then we hear this PR stuff coming out about him giving himself up, and and he’s still hostage and the whole crew is, like, what? ‘Cause everybody’s in shock,” said Mike Perry, chief engineer on the Maersk Alabama.

    Back in 2010, Perry told CNN he and most of the crew couldn’t believe the story being painted about their captain, Captain Richard Phillips: that he had given himself up in exchange for the safety of his crew. Left out of the entire story, says Perry, is the captain’s recklessness that steered the Maersk Alabama into pirate-infested waters.

    According to the crew members, Captain Phillips, on a voyage from Oman to Mombassa, Kenya set a course to save money. That route would shorten the trip, and according to Third Engineer John Cronan, put the crew directly in pirate-infested waters.

    “He was advised to change course by competent deck officers and he overruled them. Stay on course, make our ETA. Stay on the same course,” said Cronan.

    In a 2010 interview, Captain Richard Phillips told us he was not used to criticism. And when CNN confronted him with the e-mails and his crews concerns, he said it was the first time his judgment had been questioned.

    Reporter: “Their complaint is that there were specific e-mails sent to your ship stressing the need to go further out to sea.”

    “Yes. And on something like that, we will deal that in the arena that they wish. And that’s the court. That’s what this is based on,” said Captain Phillips.

    Reporter: “Is it true?”

    “Uh, there are, there are warnings put out by, I don’t know what authorities he’s talking about, he doesn’t say,” said Captain Phillips.

    Reporter: “Well, I have the emails. You’ve seen the emails”

    “I haven’t seen the emails since I been on the ship,” said Captain Phillips.

    Reporter: “But you were warned to go further out to sea.”

    “Warned to stay clear of an area, yep,” said Captain Phillips.

    The captain is now a witness in a contentious lawsuit between some of the crew and the shipping company. In a deposition just last year, Captain Phillips admitted he did indeed receive the e-mail warnings. He also admits he kept the warnings to himself.

    Asked by a plaintiff’s attorney why he didn’t move further offshore. Phillips testified, “I don’t believe 600 miles would make you safe. I didn’t believe 1,200 miles would make you safe.”

  7. I also went to see Gravity in 3-D IMAX (actually IMAX-lite). I enjoyed the movie in spite of the physics problems. I am not a big Sandra Bullock fan, but she did an excellent job.

  8. I saw the movie and it is great and I loved it. Hanks does his usual great job, which really calls for a range of acting, and the pirates are excellent as well. Even though I knew the outcome, it was still a riveting movie and explained a lot that I did not get from the news reports.

    I agree that from what I have read and heard, the people who are grousing are just pissed off that they did not get more money and it is the work of their lawyers. I think that the difference between 300 and 600 miles is so slight that it makes no difference. The pirates will simply move farther off shore then to go after their prey.

    One solution to this problem might be to have the NRA sponsor a cruise along that coast with about 1000 NRA members bringing their rifles. It would be a win/win cruise for all but the pirates.

  9. I don’t enjoy movies that are supposed to be based on real life events/actual people that take too many liberties with the truth. Years ago, I read Sylvia Nasar’s wonderful book ” A Beautiful Mind”–the biography of Nobel Laureate John Forbes Nash. My husband and I rented the DVD of the movie–which I really looked forward to watching. After about ten or so minutes into viewing it, I stopped watching. To the best of my recollection, nothing that I had seen up to that point was based on fact. It may have been a great movie–but not one that I cared to spend my time watching.

  10. Knowing this, and the extreme difference between portraying the fictional version of the captain as a hero, but the real captain as a dufus who risked lives, yes it would affect my decision to go see the movie.
    Also, if the real hero is delegated into non-significance, that bodes badly too.

    It would be nice to know whether the allegations of negligence are true, or if it as one poster here said, just the lawyers talking.

  11. Get over it. It’s a movie, not a documentary, which is often produced to a higher standard. And by today’s rules, if it sells, it’s art.

  12. First of all, just because the crew has made allegations, does not make their account true. Secondly, it is a movie and not a documentary. I will go see it.

  13. I agree with Dredd that I will not see this movie, nor the “Fifth Estate”. My decisions were made after watching trailers for each. They alerted my BS detector.

  14. You wouldn’t have a Hollywood or an American film industry without their stretching or creating the truth. Americans want to see themselves as #1 and therefore the US saved Europe in WW1 when the war was practically won before they arrived. The US did contribute in supplies and manpower that most likely shortened the war a few months, but Germany had exhausted itself having been outnumbered already two to one against the British, French, Canadians, and British and French colonial troops.

    In almost all westerns, every indigenous person is an animal, not to be trusted, and lovingly and laughingly killed by the soldiers in crisp blue uniforms, usually lead by an independent, ‘makes his own rules’, kind of guy. No one would want to see the slaughter of the buffalo and the genocide of the native inhabitants, old men and women, mothers, children, etc.

    It’s probably worth watching Tom Hanks, if only for a dose of reality, the reality of Hollywood.

  15. If these allegations are true, would that influence your decision to watch the film?” -JT


    It is like the “The Fifth Estate” which I also will boycott because of what Assange says about it (it is deliberately not accurate).

  16. BREAKING: Hollywood creates fictional account of actual events. It’s never happened before.


  17. As a shipmaster for over 30 years (coincidentally with Maersk) I suspect this lawsuit is more the result of the actions of avaricious lawyers than Captain Phillips’ crew. My long experience of ship’s crew is that they are, almost without exception, fiercely loyal to the captain under who they serve. As for knowingly putting the ship in danger by steaming in a piracy area? Take a look at a map, people. How do you steam between ports A and B, both of which are in the high risk area, without transiting the area? For those of us almost continually in the Gulf of Aden High Risk Area, we are professional seafarers and that’s what we do – and sailors don’t normally cry. For more insight, read ‘The Megiddo Revenge’ http://amzn.com/B00F4NP1KW

  18. This movie was on my “must see” list until I read the crew’s version this morning via reddit; I will definitely NOT be seeing this movie. I find this apparently gross disregard for the facts by Hollywood extremely distasteful.

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