An exceptional naval thriller based on the actual 2009 kidnapping of Captain Richard Phillips by Somalian pirates, Captain Phillips (2013) marks yet another career highlight for capable star Tom Hanks. Taut, exciting, and scary throughout, the film succeeds largely due to the presence of Hanks in the likable lead. Also contributing to its impact, however, is the presence of such ugly, menacing blacks in the roles of the antagonists, particularly Barkhad Abdi as pirate ringleader Abduwali Muse. Any self-respecting white person watching this movie will be terrified.
5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Captain Phillips is:
7. Ostensibly egalitarian. As a fig leaf to cover its obviously obscene racism, the film includes a line about how Somalian men have no economic opportunities apart from fishing and piracy, the former option being limited after western fishing vessels have depleted their waters’ stock of fish. The poor, disadvantaged chaps just happened to have the bad luck of growing up in a dangerous environment exacerbated by the West’s capitalist imperialism.
6. Pro-drone. A “Scan Eagle” conducts surveillance as part of the mission to rescue the captain.
5. Pro-family. Phillips’s thoughts are with his family during what may be his last moments on earth.
4. Pro-gun. A valid complaint from the crew is that their ship has no weapons with which to repulse the invaders.
3. Pro-military. Navy SEALs enact the role of the proverbial cavalry coming to the rescue.
2. Neoconservative. Set in March of 2009, shortly after the inauguration of Obama, the film features an early scene in which Phillips exchanges nervous remarks with his wife about the changing nature of the times. In production during the presidential election year of 2012, Captain Phillips benefited from serendipitous onomastic circumstances of the historical Phillips narrative. The Navy dispatches the USS Bainbridge and USS Halyburton to intercept the hijackers and retrieve Captain Phillips. How perfect is that? Bain Capital and Halliburton speed to the rescue of white America, held hostage by African terrorist Muslims just like President Obama! Good thing the U.S. has so much world police man and materiel invested in the Middle East, as well, or else Captain Phillips might not have been saved so quickly – if it all!
1. Racist! Mainstream political discourse disallows Republicans from discussing race in any but the most mincing and counterproductive of terms. Suppressed neoconservative racism, consequently, can only express itself as hatred of foreign Muslims or else encrypt itself as is the case with the thinly veiled subtext of Captain Phillips. A ship is a world unto itself, and just as the prison vessel in Escape Plan (2013) works as a floating microcosm of the American police state, so the Maersk Alabama functions as a representation of an American polity subject to a demographic shit-hurricane. Just as Bull Connor, Birmingham’s Commissioner of Public Safety during the 60s, tried to be civil and used restraint in only hosing revolting congoids who invaded his community, so the moderate captain of the Maersk Alabama hopes to stave off the pirate attack by holding their boat at bay with his ship’s several powerful hoses. As Montgomery fell to the blacks, however, the Alabama is boarded and occupied by the party of Africans.
“Is this how you do business?” Phillips asks as the invaders brandish their weapons. The pirates, like American blacks, take from others to further their parasitic mode of living. Like American blacks, too, they are never satisfied. After flash-mobbing the ship and being offered $30,000 to leave, they demand millions more and take a hostage to ensure that they receive it. (“When we get paid, everything gon be OK.”) Negotiation with the savages – in other words, more political moderation and compromise, disingenuous dialogue, hand-wringing, and flattery, as Phillips advises his men to “make them feel like they’re in charge” – is of course futile, and only results in the good-natured captain being kidnapped. A third vessel participating in the Phillips rescue mission along with the USS Bainbridge and USS Halyburton is the USS Boxer, significantly a “Wasp-class” amphibious assault ship, a designation further emphasizing the racially informed nature of the conflict. The Somalian pirates – again, like America’s blacks – are prone to self-pity and bickering, prompting Captain Phillips in a moment of candor to tell them, “Your problem is you.”
The lesson to be had from Captain Phillips? Communities, like ships, should be armed and ready to fight to keep out the undesirables.