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During Captain Phillips's hostage-taking aboard the lifeboat there is one incident (or one of many in fact) when the situation with the Navy and aboard the lifeboat is escalating a bit (I think after they wanted to bring them water and supplies) and Muse is holding Captain Phillips at gunpoint. At this point Captain Phillips says to Muse something like

You're not fishermen, you're not just simple fishermen!

But I'm not sure what he really wanted to say or achieve with these words, given that he was rather cool-headed and thinking all the time (apart from the finale, though). Did he just want to make them a bad conscience or to intimidate them (though, if he wanted them to fear the Navy, he would have rather said "you are just fishermen"). Or was he maybe trying to show them that he respects their authority? What did he mean with this statement?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Whilst Piracy can hardly be considered a legally justified activity, there is certain amount of sympathy that exists for 'Somali Pirates'.

It is relatively well accepted that the recent spate of Piracy around the Horn of Africa has been motivated by the events of the Second Phase of the Somali Civil war.

Many of these Pirates claim they are simply defending the natural resources of their country against the imperialistic tendencies of both international shipping companies and elements of their own countries interests vying for power and control.

Counter-cultural Publications such as Adbusters, and the Time Article linked earlier, are often found explaining (if not defending) the actions of Somali 'Pirates' as simple fishermen driven to the act of violence as their only means of nihilistic expression against forces beyond their control.

The 'Fishermen' in Captain Philips definitely do not fall into this category. They are part of a network of organised crime which ransoms cargo against insurance payouts as industrial practice.

Muse and his men had been playing the 'just fishermen' card to play off against these muddy waters, this international sympathy about a conflict whose details are grey at best.

This was the point that Captain Philips realized they were manipulating this sympathy to work in their favor, and responded in anger:

"You're not fishermen, you're not just simple fishermen!"

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I didn't consider this angle. While I understood that they were working for higher powers I didn't really see this difference between simple ex-fishermen and organized hostage-takers and they probably achieved to deceive me, too. But this explanation makes good sense and also lets other dialogue be seen in light of that (like "you had 30,000, but it wasn't enough for you", or "last time I got 6 millions." - "Then why are you here?"). Maybe Muse didn't lie with his fishermen story but that was already a long time ago. –  Napoleon Wilson Nov 21 '13 at 23:56
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