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‘Captain Phillips’ Not Quite Accurate According to Crew Members 

Whenever a major Hollywood film depicts a real-life story, there’s usually some liberties taken to make the film a little more dramatic.  This usually means altering the story a bit so that audiences favor a particular character more or fabricating scenes partially, or entirely, to increase the suspense.

Following the release of Argo last year, Ken Taylor, Canada’s former ambassador to Iran and a character in the film played by Victor Garber, was upset by the downplaying of Canada’s involvement in the mission to free six Americans trapped in Iran.

“In reality, Canada was responsible for the six and the CIA was a junior partner.  But I realize this is a movie and you have to keep the audience on the edge of their seats,” said Taylor.

Captain Phillips, Tom Hanks - Getty Images
Richard Phillips, Tom Hanks | (Getty Images)

After talking with director Ben Affleck, Taylor was able to get a postscript line changed at the end of the movie.  Originally it suggested that the CIA did all the work and the Canadians took all the credit but it was ultimately changed saying, “The involvement of the CIA complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran.  To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international cooperation between governments.”

Affleck and Taylor amicably worked out the inconsistencies, but a new film that also depicts a dramatic real-life story is having some difficulty with people who witnessed the actual event. 

Nine crew members of the Maersk Alabama, a container ship that was hijacked by Somalia pirates in 2009, have filed a lawsuit claiming Capt. Richard Phillips ignored warnings to sail clear of pirate-infested waters off Africa.

Phillips was eventually taken hostage by the pirates in a lifeboat for five days until being rescued by U.S. Navy SEALs.  The captain went on to write a memoir chronicling the experience which was then adapted into the film starring Tom Hanks.

Phillips was hailed a hero following the incident, but the crew members say the ship was traveling too close to the Somalia coast at the time due to the ship’s owner, Maersk Line Limited, and the operator, Waterman Steamship Corporation, wanting to save the company money by traveling on a faster route.

Scene from 'Captain Phillips' - Sony Pictures
A scene from ‘Captain Phillips’ | (Sony Pictures)

“To make him into a hero for driving this boat and these men into pirate-infested waters, that’s the real injustice here,” said attorney Brian Beckcom, who is representing the nine crew members.  “The movie tells a highly fictionalized version of what actually happened.”

Captain Phillips, which is directed by Paul Greengrass, looks like an outstanding thriller and it’s been getting great reviews ahead of its October 11 release date.  While I take every “Based on a true story” movie with a grain of salt, to have half of the crew members accusing their captain of “…knowingly, intentionally and willfully…” sending them into a dangerous area is a pretty big accusation and drastically changes the film’s perspective and possibly its perception.

But I’ll still be going to the theater to check it out because at the end of the day, all movies are fiction.  Some, perhaps, more than others.

Box Office Prognosticator: Gravity

After four years and new technology invented specifically for it, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity is finally hitting theaters this weekend.  Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, the space spectacle is getting some of the best reviews of the year (98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), but the big question is, how well will it do in its debut at the box office?

The film is being smartly marketed as a stunningly visual experience meant to be seen on the big screen and with the star power of Bullock and Clooney, the film will easily be number one.  Shockingly, the film cost just $80 million to make (In comparison, R.I.P.D. cost $130 million.  Every dollar from Gravity is on the screen.  I don’t know where $100 million-plus of R.I.P.D. went) so it will certainly earn its money back, but the opening weekend is always what everyone wants to talk about.

If you look at the other original Sci-fi films that were released this year (After Earth, Oblivion, Elysium, Pacific Rim), all of them opened in the $27-37 million range.  With Gravity being released in the Fall, a historically down period for opening weekends, the film is expected to gross at the higher end of its contemporaries.

Sandra Bullock - Collider
A scene from ‘Gravity’ | (Collider)

But those other films were geared toward male audiences and the science fiction they were portraying involved aliens, monsters and robots.  While Gravity is classified as a Sci-fi film, it exists in a real world with modern-day astronauts.  It’s more of a thriller than a futuristic movie and with Sandra Bullock appearing in the majority of the film, a female demographic will certainly be stronger for this film. 

Box Office Mojo has Gravity earning between around $40 million by Sunday.  I’m going to be a little more optimistic and say it will make $45 million and possibly a little more thanks to the theater experience (not to mention 3D and IMAX ticket sales).   I want to say more, but with kids going back to school, football season in full-effect and the return of Fall television, Gravity has a lot of competition outside of the cinema.

This movie will end up being a monster hit, but it will ultimately get there thanks to sustainability in the weeks after its opening weekend.  Great reviews and strong word-of-mouth are usually key factors in that occurring and Gravity looks primed to have that kind of success.





Passionate about movies, sports and writing, Ryan hails from Bend but lives in Springfield now. He earned his college degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and hopes to one day write a novel. He also enjoys sunsets and long walks on the beach.

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