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Captain Phillips True Story

The True Story of Captain Phillips: What Really Happened at Sea

Tom Hanks takes on the title character in Captain Phillips, a man who's in charge of a cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, that gets hijacked by Somali pirates while traveling through the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa. The story itself is pretty remarkable, and it's made even more so by the fact that it portrays a real incident from 2009, which the real Captain Phillips wrote a book about in his book A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea. Surprisingly, the film doesn't stray too much from the real story, but if you saw the movie, you might want some of the blanks filled in, like the background of the real Captain Phillips, details about the depiction, and what happened in the aftermath.

What's the real Captain Phillips like?

Richard Phillips, seen here with Hanks, is originally from Massachusetts (hence Hanks's onscreen accent), and at the time of the incident, he was 54 years old. Though both men share salt-and-pepper hair, when Hanks was cast, Phillips joked that Hanks needed to "put on a little weight and get a little better-looking" to play him.

Find out more details (spoiler warning!) after the jump.

How accurate is what happens on screen?

As Phillipps himself has attested, what you see on screen is pretty much what really happened. The crew did hide in the engine room and shut off the ship from there, and Phillips really did try to escape the lifeboat he's taken hostage on. However, the only thing Phillips disputes about the film is the onscreen relationship between the pirates and Phillips. "There was a bond between the pirates in the movie and myself in the movie, but that was never there in the real thing," he said.

What did Phillips know while he was held hostage?

The USS Bainbridge was monitoring the situation before Navy SEALs delivered sniper shots to kill three of four of Phillips's captors, but what's interesting is that Phillips told NPR he thought the shots were from another pirate ship, and that he was completely unaware that the SEALs were involved until after his rescue.

How long did it all take?

Though the movie is so harrowing it almost feels like it's taking place in real time, Phillips's whole ordeal with the pirates actually lasted five whole days. Also, Muse is taken captive by the Alabama's crew while on board, and though it feels brief, he was held for 12 hours.

What happened to the pirate who wasn't shot?

Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, known in the film as Muse, is portrayed as the ringleader. At the time, he was believed to be between 17 and 19, as were the other three pirates who were killed. Like in the movie, Muse came onboard the USS Bainbridge to negotiate Phillips's release, and once Phillips was free, he was taken into custody. The movie's postscript notes that he was sentenced to 34 years in prison in 2011, but what's not shown is that he was also charged for two other attacks on international shipping vessels.

Image Sources: Columbia Pictures and Getty
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