On Friday night we went to the opening night of Captain Phillips - the new Tom Hanks movie about the capture of an American container ship by Somalian pirates in 2009. Hanks is pretty busy right now because one of the previews was of a movie which is going to come out around Christmas called "Saving Mr Banks" which is the story of how Walt Disney coaxed the author of Mary Poppins to put her book(s) into a film. (That looks like an entertaining movie, which I have heard something about because my son in law works for Disney.) Captain Phillips is a bit long - although I am not sure how it could have been cut. Almost from the time the ship gets underway, it is an intensely entertaining movie. After we saw the movie I read up on the four Somalians who played the pirates. They were found in a casting call in Minneapolis and play their parts with a convincing menace. The movie is shot in a somewhat jerky style which adds to the intensity - but the plot is well thought out and gripping. We thoroughly enjoyed it.
Interestingly, there are two side notes to the story. US merchant ships were prohibited from carrying firearms and so for a while were good targets of pirates. (Another gun free zone.) There was some thought that the merchant seamen would do more harm than good with weapons. As pirate incidents began to increase cargo vessels were reequipped to lock down major parts of the boat. As depicted in the movie - ships were also equipped with firehoses which made it much harder to board a ship. In 2010 that no arms requirement was changed and American flag vessels can now include defensive weapons. Other countries have followed suit. The number of pirate incidents has declined significantly and it is unclear whether the incident depicted in Captain Phillips (where three of the four pirates were killed by Navy seals) or the ability to rearm these vessels contributed to that decline.