Paul Greengrass Stands Behind ‘Captain Phillips’ Accuracy – '100 Percent’

Paul Greengrass Stands Behind 'Captain Phillips' Accuracy – '100 Percent'

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“In particular, I am confident that Captain Phillips did not take an irresponsible route along the coast of Somalia”

Paul Greengrass says he stands behind the authenticity of “Captain Phillips” – Maersk Alabama crew members’ allegations-be-damned.

“I'm 100% satisfied that the picture we present of these events in the film, including the role playing by Captain Phillips, is authentic,” Greengrass wrote in a Reddit AMA. “I stand by the picture I give in the film, absolutely.”

Unidentified crew members panned the film, and the man Tom Hanks portrays, in a New York Post article published this week.

“Phillips wasn’t the big leader like he is in the movie,” one crew member told the Post on the condition of anonymity, since 11 crew members are pursuing a $50 million lawsuit against the ship's owner and operator. The suit alleges “willful, wanton and conscious disregard for their safety,” arguing a “real arrogant” Phillips ignored warnings to extend the ship's distance from the African shore by at least 600 more miles.

Also read: ‘Gravity,’ ‘Captain Phillips’ Face Inaccuracy Charges – Have the Oscar Whisper Campaigns Begun?

“At that time was that pirate bands had begun using motherships, which enabled them to strike at ships throughout the Indian ocean, up to 800 miles plus out to sea, if not further,” Greengrass wrote. “The film shows clearly Captain Phillips receiving warnings about pirate attacks, putting into place security measures onboard ship.”

“The film also shows a vigorous debate with some members of the crew who wanted the ship to deviate from its route in order to prevent attack,” Greengrass continued. “And I show Captain Phillips (as I believe occurred) arguing that there was no point deviating the route, because pirate bands with motherships could attack them wherever they went.”

Greengrass noted it's impossible for a 2-hour film to capture “every detail,” but maintained that the details he did present to audiences were factual.

“At the end of the day, it is easy to make anonymous accusations against a film. But the facts are clear. Captain Phillips’ ship was attacked, and the ship and the crew and its cargo made it safely to port with no injuries or loss of life,” Greengrass wrote.  ”That's the story we told, and it's an accurate one.”

See the filmmaker's full response, below:

What is your response to all the critical reports about the movie being inaccurate?

I'm glad you asked that! I saw those stories too, based upon an “anonymous crew member”. Here are the facts.

Shortly after the Mersk Alabama incident was successfully resolved, and Captain Phillips returned home safely, some members of the crew sued Mersk Corporation claiming they had been put in harm's way. They also alleged that Captain Phillips had ignored warnings to stay away from the coast of Somalia. When we started the film, it was a top priority for me to look into this issue in every detail. And I obviously can't comment on this lawsuit, but what I can say is that myself, along with my colleague Michael Bronner formerly of 60 minutes, with whom I worked on United 93 and other projects, we researched the background of the Mersk Alabama highjacking in exhausting detail over many months.

We spoke to every member of the Alabama crew bar one, all of the U.S. Military responders that played a leading role in these events, and thoroughly researched backgrounds of the 4 pirates and the issue of Somali piracy generally. And I'm 100% satisfied that the picture we present of these events in the film, including the role playing by Captain Phillips, is authentic. I stand by the picture I give in the film, absolutely.

In particular I am confident that Captain Phillips did not take an irresponsible route along the coast of Somalia and ignore a specific warning as alleged in the press. The route he took was similar to that taken by many ships of many nationalities at that time and since.

The problem of piracy at that time was that pirate bands had begun using motherships, which enabled them to strike at ships throughout the Indian ocean, up to 800 miles plus out to sea, if not further. The film shows clearly Captain Phillips receiving warnings about pirate attacks, putting into place security measures onboard ship. The film also shows a vigorous debate with some members of the crew who wanted the ship to deviate from its route in order to prevent attack, and I show Captain Phillips (as I believe occurred) arguing that there was no point deviating the route, because pirate bands with motherships could attack them wherever they went.

At the end of the day, it is easy to make anonymous accusations against a film. But the facts are clear. Captain Phillips’ ship was attacked, and the ship and the crew and its cargo made it safely to port with no injuries or loss of life. Also, the fact is that Captain Phillips went into the lifeboat in order to ensure the safety of his crew, because thereby he insured the pirates left the ship. The fact is, Captain Phillips then endured a five day ordeal at the hands of his kidnappers that very nearly resulted in his being killed. That's the story we told, and it's an accurate one.

Now of course, any film you have to compress events and alter certain details to make sure that a 5 or 6 day complicated chain of events works as a 2 hour movie. And whilst our film does not reflect every detail of what every single crew member did during the highjack [and I appreciate this may have upset some members of the crew], the film does very clearly show that all members of the crew worked heroically and independently from Captain Phillips to ensure the safety of the ship and that specific members of the crew, for instance Mike Perry the chief engineer and Shane Murphy the chief mate, played very significant personal roles in the successful outcome of the highjacking. I believe that when looked at overall, the film does acknowledge the admirable contributions of all crew members and of specific individuals, so of course, though as I say, some of the specifics may have been lost in the 2 hour turn.

I stand by my film, and if there's a bit of sour grapes around, I put that down to the fact that to be in command of a ship – as I know from my father's experiences – is often a lonely place. And you don't win popularity contests as a captain. Your job, and certainly Richard says by his own admission, he was a professional merchant marine captain and he faced a dreadful challenge that day in the middle of the ocean far from help. And the ship, the crew, and the cargo reached port safely. I don't quite understand what there is to criticize…

  • Vincent Price

    The pirates only wanted 10 million. The crew wants 50 million.

  • Chris Thomas

    Why doesn't a ship that is worth so much money owned by an American company that sails in dangerous waters does not have a single gun on aboard it makes no sense.

  • Achilles

    Ummm… I think I'll side with the artists with a track record of thoughtful integrity who seem to have thoroughly researched this ordeal, have a command of the facts and the benefit of weighing multiple perspectives versus a small cadre of caviling hindsighters with a vested interest who have their hands out for an easy take. Seriously, criticism of this movie because it doesn't conform to their lawsuit is ridiculous. Who are the real pirates in this mess? Hope the crew gets trounced in court.

  • Craig

    Does anyone know, specifically, if the glass-breaking incident in the engine room was true? I haven't read the book.