Paul Greengrass' new movie, Captain Phillips, purports to be based on a true story - except some crew members of the ship hijacked by Somali pirates are claiming that the heroic portrayal of their captain is not accurate in the slightest.
The movie is based on the memoir of Captain Richard Phillips, whose cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, was boarded by four armed Somali pirates in 2009. Phillips was taken hostage by the pirates aboard the ship's lifeboat, leaving the crew unharmed.
Speaking with the New York Post, one anonymous crew member said: "Phillips wasn't the big leader like he is in the movie." The Post also says the crew member claims Phillips had a reputation as being a "sullen" and "self-righteous" captain: "No one wants to sail with him."
The crew of the Maersk Alabama are currently engaged in a $50 million lawsuit with the Waterman Steamship Corp., but Captain Phillips is representing the defence. Attorney Deborah Waters, representing the crew, says that Phillips ignored repeated warnings about pirates off the coast of Somalia.
"The crew had begged Captain Phillips not to go so close to the Somali coast. He told them he wouldn't let pirates scare him or force him to sail away from the coast." Confirms the crew member: "He didn't want anything to do with it, because it wasn't his plan. He was real arrogant." The International Maritime Organisation had sent several recommendations that captains stay at least 600 miles off shore; Phillips has admitted to being less than half that distance away.
Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips aboard the bridge of the Maersk Alabama.
The crew member also claims that Phillips never yelled "If you're gonna shoot somebody, shoot me!" as in the movie, and that Phillips never offered himself up as a hostage. Allegedly, Phillips also insisted the crew complete a perfunctory fire drill when the pirates were visible, just seven miles away. "This is how screwed up he is. These are drills we need to do once a year," sais the crew member. "Two boats with pirates and he doesn't give a s**t. That's the kind of guy he is."
In the movie, Tom Hanks' Captain Phillips is portrayed as a heroic, resourceful leader. That couldn't be further from the truth, says the crew member. "Phillips didn't say what he wanted to do. His plan [was], when the pirates come aboard, we throw our hands in the air and say, 'Oh, the pirates are here!'"
Chief Engineer Mike Perry, who led the crew of the Alabama down into the engine room, says that Phillips purposely ignored the pirate warnings due to his perverse desire to be captured and taken hostage. "We vowed we were going to take it to our graves, that we weren't going to say anything," Perry told CNN in 2010. "Then we hear this PR stuff about him giving himself up... and the whole crew's like, 'What?'"
"It is galling for [the crew] to see Captain Phillips set up as a hero," adds Waters. "It is just horrendous, and they're angry."
It is understandable that many of the Maersk crew members might be upset; Phillips became a mini-celebrity after his ordeal at sea, meeting President Barack Obama and releasing a memoir to nationwide acclaim. He walked the red carpet with Tom Hanks at the premiere of Captain Phillips, which debuted at #2 on the US box-office chart with an opening weekend of $26 million. The film is released in UK cinemas this Friday.
Will you go and see Captain Phillips at the cinema? Will these allegations make you think twice? Let us know in the comments below.