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Depending on whom you ask, Captain Richard Phillips may not be quite as heroic as Paul Greengrass’s new film makes him out to be.
An anonymous member of the captain’s crew on the Maersk Alabama, for example, is coming forward and claiming that Phillips is nothing like the hero portrayed on screen by Tom Hanks, and that the movie is more of a lie than Hollywood is letting people believe. In an interview with the New York Post, this anonymous source (who protected his name for “legal reasons”) said, "Phillips wasn’t the big leader like he is in the movie. … No one wants to sail with him. … He was real arrogant.”
Now, Columbia Pictures isn’t claiming that Captain Phillips is a documentary, but numerous articles and reviews filed on behalf of the movie make note about the director’s trademark realism in his ripped-from-the-headlines dramas (like United 93 and The Green Zone).
Of course, there are two sides to every story. The anonymous source taking Phillips to task also, according to the Post, happens to be part of a group suing Maersk following the events of the infamous hijacking. The group – consisting of 11 crew members – is suing the company for nearly $50 million claiming “willful, wonton and conscious disregard for their safety” on the part of the captain. They argue that he ignored orders and sailed too close to the shores of Somalia, making his boat a clear target for pirates (as depicted in the movie). Phillips contradicts some of their claims in the article – he is a defendant for Maersk, after all – but they are arguing over nitpicky items. Still, a blockbuster film claiming the opposite of the point you are trying to make in your lawsuit can’t help your case, so it’s understandable why the plaintiffs are waging a “war” against Phillips and his reputation in the mainstream media.
While the men who once sailed with Phillips raise a sink in the news, Greengrass’s movie made waves at the box office. It couldn’t dethrone Alfonso Cuaron’s masterful Gravity, but it earned an estimated $26 million in its debut frame… good for second place on the weekend Top 10. Will this new semi-controversy drive more people into theaters to see the story of Captain Phillips? Or will crew members calling into question the authenticity of Greengrass’s story keep those audience members who were on the fence away from the movie theaters? Time will tell as Phillips continues to screen. In the meantime, check out this CNN report, which asks a lot of the same questions addressed in this story.