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From: Mark Leeper <mleeper@optonline.net>
Subject: Review: The Pirates of Somalia (2017)
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Date: Tue, 2 Jan 2018 12:47:00 -0800 (PST)
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Subject: Review: The Pirates of Somalia (2017)
From: Mark Leeper <mleeper@optonline.net>
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               (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    CAPSULE: This film is one of several of 2017 based on 
    true stories.  Jay Bahadur, a determined if somewhat 
    unready writer from Toronto, decides that his path to 
    fame and permanent employment is to travel to Somalia 
    and write a book about the pirates who are in the news 
    for hijacking passing cargo ships.  This film covers 
    his exploits getting to Somalia and mixing in affairs 
    that he only incompletely understands.  The film starts 
    as a comedy, but the humor runs out as Bahadur comes to 
    understand how serious his position is, and he learns 
    to be responsible.  The film was written and directed 
    by Bryan Buckley, adapted from the book by Bahadur.  
    Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

Most people from the United States probably could not find Somalia 
on a world map.  Over the last few decades the world has become 
aware of the massive problems of Somalis, in particular those who 
turn to maritime piracy. They hijack cargo ships in the African 
waters and the Indian Ocean.  Somali pirates seize cargo ships and 
hold the hostage for ransoms in the millions of dollars.

There have been at least two major films on this issue.  Tom Hanks 
starred in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, and there was an excellent Danish 
film, A HIJACKING.  THE PIRATES OF SOMALIA is not as informative 
perhaps, with good but unsuccessful intentions telling the story of 
Jay Bahadur (played by Evan Peters), an aspiring journalist who had 
a special interest in Somalia after he wrote a term paper on the 
country for a high school class.  Ignoring the danger, he travels 
to Somalia to see if he can find pirates.

Once he gets to know the Somalis he wants to write about them to 
tell the world what he has learned.  But the emphasis is less about 
the country and more about Bahadur and the problems he faces--a 
fish out of water--than about any pirates.  His greatest revelation 
is that other countries have over-fished Somalia's fishing waters.  
For the Somalis it is an issue of going hungry or finding another 
source of income.  Those very valuable cargo ships on the water 
near home is a big temptation for them.

Al Pacino plays Seymour Tolbin, considered a great journalist made 
famous by his Vietnam coverage, who is sort of inspiration and muse 
for Bahadur.  For his role Pacino slurs his speech talking through 
rough beard.  He is not based on a real person and is a waste of 
valuable narrative time.  There is one other familiar actor, 
Melanie Griffith plays Bahadur's mother at least a little better.

Scenes like a pirate attack on a boat are done in animation--a 
reasonable way to save on budget.  The film does feature some well-
shot desert photography.  Otherwise the country looks uninviting 
and that too we see.

The worst problem of the film is there is much less about the 
pirates themselves as there is about how Bahadur found his way to 
them.  Rather than a news correspondent story sort of film this 
film can more be compared with a film like LOCAL HERO with its 
gentle look at the ensemble of background characters.  Even the 
pirates themselves indentify themselves as Robin Hood pirates, 
supposedly sharing their proceeds with the poor.  Just as Laurel 
and Hardy accentuated each other by their opposite statures--one 
tall and thin, the other short and squat--Bahadur and his guide 
Abdi (Barkhad Abdi) have very different faces accentuating the 
humor between them.  Bahadur (Evan Peters, really) has a very 
circular face.  Barkhad Abdi has a narrow, triangular face.  (Abdi 
was also in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS as the lead pirate.)

Writer-director Buckley seems to think that his viewer wants to 
know more about Bahadur than about Somali pirates.  At least he can 
make that funnier.  I rate THE PIRATES OF SOMALIA a high +1 on the 
-4 to +4 scale or 6/10.  This film had a limited release in the US 
on December 8.  A wider release is probably coming.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2018 Mark R. Leeper