Captain Phillips, a film that is billed as being “based on a true story” of a 2009 Somali pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama, thrilled movie goers when it was released in 2013, and it’s no surprise to see the film nominated for six Oscars as we move into 2014. Barkhad Abdi, a first-time actor from Minneapolis, was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Muse, the lead pirate, and the film itself is up for Best Picture.
While this is great news for the actors and film crew who worked on Captain Phillips, some members of the real-life crew of the Maersk Alabama received the news with somewhat less enthusiasm. Although the film Captain Phillips claims to be based on the “true story” of their own life-threatening experience with Somali pirates, they say the film takes some major liberties in stretching the truth, and that the “heroic” Captain Richard Phillips presented in the film was, in reality, partially at fault for putting them at risk.
When “Hollywood Magic” Goes Wrong—The Real Story of the Maersk Alabama
We all know that movies make use of a little “Hollywood magic” to create compelling stories, and we certainly don’t expect filmmakers to be accurate historians. Just take a look at historically inaccurate Best Picture winners Braveheart or Gladiator. We can brush off historical inaccuracies for the purposes of enjoying a great film, but what happens when the victims of an inaccurate “true story” are still around—and still waiting for resolution?
Nearly half of the real-life crew of the Maersk Alabama believe that their captain, Richard Phillips, and their employer, Maersk Line Limited, could have taken steps to prevent the attack and were warned about pirate activity in the area. Rather than heeding warnings, providing security on the vessel, or planning a safer route, Captain Phillips and Maersk Line made the decision to send the unprotected vessel into risky waters. Far from being a selfless hero in defense of a “lazy” crew, actual crewmembers of the Maersk Alabama say that the real-life Captain Phillips knowingly put them in a situation where heroics might even be necessary, risking their lives in the name of Maersk’s bottom line.
While people across the nation sit back to enjoy the story of Captain Phillips in anticipation of the Academy Awards, some of the real victims of the Maersk Alabama hijacking continue to struggle toward a resolution for the physical, emotional, and financial harm they were put through. Unfortunately, the inaccuracies presented by the film threaten to slow their long journey.
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