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The pirates that capture Captain Phillips seem to be given rather typical roles in the movie:

  • There is Muse, the leader and voice of reason (compared to the others at least), struggling to keep everything under control.

  • Najee gives the aggressive and hot-headed opposite, who more than one time challenges Muse for his supposed softness.

  • And there is the young and overstrained Bilal, who gets injured and starts to sympathize with Captain Phillips.

  • (Elmi, the one steering the lifeboat, seems to stay rather under-developed compared to the other three, I think.)

But I wonder in which way those characters match their descriptions from Richard Phillips's book (which I admittedly haven't read). The Wikipedia article says that he portrays them as "alternately conciliatory, vicious, and unfocused", but it doesn't explain if he attributed those traits more to single characters or rather to the group as a whole at different times. Or maybe he didn't differentiate the various characters of the pirates in the same clear way the movie did. It would therefore be interesting to know in which way the movie differs from the book in its depictions of the pirates and what the reasons for those differences are (if any).

(In fact I'd also like to ask if the pirates' characters match those of their real-life counterparts during the hostage crisis, but I see that apart from Richard Phillips there aren't really any witnesses for that.)

  • 1
    Was going to try and read the book and try to answer this, but damn is it hard to find online! – Andrew Martin Feb 18 '16 at 0:15
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Muse was 18 at the time, and leading a pirate attempt. He was not a "voice of reason", he was young and attempting to make a name for himself. Najee was in a similar situation, though more aggressive. Bilal was younger and trying to "learn the ropes".

I'd say they softened Muse up a little, played Najee a little more aggressively and more-or-less left Bilal's character alone based on how I interpreted it from the book.

But, then again, Muse claims the book isn't accurate and the crew of the Maersk Alabama have sued the ship line for $50M for "willful, wanton and conscious disregard for their safety" because of the actions of Capt. Phillips, so who knows if the book depicted them accurately.

  • That's why I didn't ask if the book depicted them accurately in the first place. I know we only have Phillips himself to rely on that. But as to the previous two paragraphs, can I assume that you actually read the book and are drawing comparisons to the book characters there? If that's the case, this might very well be worth mentioning in the answer. – Napoleon Wilson Mar 18 '17 at 16:29
  • I did say, "based on how I interpreted it", and since you asked about the book vs the movie, it's pretty much implied. – Johnny Bones Mar 18 '17 at 17:52

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