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Tom Hanks is coming out with a movie about Captain Richard Phillips, who survived a hostage situation after his cargo ship was taken over by Somali pirates. This is a movie that’s in Hanks’ wheelhouse and he may come out with an armful of movie awards again. The question is, did Phillips really deserve to be called a hero?
The reason why I ask this is because there had been warnings sent out to avoid the Somali Coast. Taking somewhat of a fatalistic view, Phillips figured that there would be a hijacking either way and he chose to ignore those – and lo and behold, pirates took over the cargo ship, which was taking relief items to refugees. After a long struggle, which included the pirates initially being overwhelmed by the crew who fought back, Phillips was taken hostage on a lifeboat and a daring military rescue was the only thing that saved him.
Yes, it’s possible that Phillips might have avoided the whole incident if he had listened to the warnings. Then again, things have a funny way of happening no matter what you do to avoid them. One can be afraid to go outside for fear of being hit by a car…and then be crushed if a car drives through their front wall.
Hollywood loves romanticizing things, which is why they always have that disclaimer, “Based on a true story…” If they wanted to make everything 100% accurate, they’d make a documentary. They don’t cast Hanks for documentaries. There’s always things that are ratcheted up for dramatic tension. People’s characteristics are either embellished or diminished according to how they want the movie to go. The Somalis may be shown in the movie as villains who are one-dimensional or they may be shown as human beings who are only doing things the way that they know.
Ultimately, it comes down to one thing: Phillips is not a hero, but he is a flawed person, like all of us are, who survived one of the most harrowing things that any of us can even imagine going through and that is good enough to have his story told on the big screen.