RedEye

'Stolen Seas': No 'yo ho' for these pirates ★★ 1/2

It was just business, one slice from a multibillion dollar piracy industry. In 2008, Somali pirates hijacked a Danish cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden and demanded a ransom of $7 million for the return of the ship and its crew. The ship's owner countered with an offer of a few hundred thousand. Thus began a tense negotiation spanning weeks, then months, with the pirates' morally conflicted negotiator in the middle.

Thymaya Payne's wobbly but intriguing documentary, now in a week-long run at Facets Cinematheque, is two docs in one. Once the hostage situation is established, and the days start adding up in the negotiations between Danish CEO Per Gullestrup and Somali middleman Ishmael Ali, "Stolen Seas" steps back and takes time, too much time, to PowerPoint and talking-head its way through a presentation on economic forces in famine-ridden Somalia and how corrupt and venal government and indifferent or bungling international politics helped stoke the piracy crime wave. In the film's middle section you cannot help but wonder: Yes, but how's the hostage crisis going?

Payne and screenwriter Mark Monroe, who shaped the outline of the film, succeed admirably when they focus on Ali, whose ambiguous place in his own story becomes the way into all the other stories. Payne's cliched cinematics are less helpful: He's a sucker for phony-looking "dramatic re-enactment" footage accompanying (legit) recorded phone conversations. Also, the music is terrible — thundering, pounding, false.

And yet it's a strong subject, worth a look if only for Payne's determined debunking of the worldwide piratical cultural allure. Jack Sparrow, you're fired.

mjphillips@tribune.com

'Stolen Seas' -- 2 1/2 stars
No MPAA rating
(language, violence).
Running time: 1:28; in English and subtitled Somali, Italian, Russian, Tagalog and German.
Plays: Friday-Thursday at Facets Cinematheque.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • 10 movies to see this winter

    10 movies to see this winter

    Tribune movie critic Michael Phillips picks 10 movies you should see in the coming months.

  • Top 50 superhero movies of the last 10 years

    Top 50 superhero movies of the last 10 years

    Since 2002 there have been arguably 50 movies about superheroes. Arguably, because genre is tricky; it's often variations on a theme, and some variations are less obvious than others. ("Star Wars," for instance, a bit of a space western, is no one's picture of the western genre.) Oh, also: Because...

  • Michael Phillips predicts the Oscars

    Michael Phillips predicts the Oscars

    Tribune movie critic Michael Phillips makes his picks for who should win and who will win the major categories for the 2013 Academy Awards:

  • Lollapalooza style portraits

    Lollapalooza style portraits

    Concertgoers pose at the three-day fest in Grant Park.

  • Lolla day 2: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    Lolla day 2: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    And just like that, there’s only one day left of Lolla. Here’s what stood out to us from day 2. Best: The Tallest Man on Earth: Maybe it was just a right-mood, right-set situation, but boy this was the perfect mid-day act to take a breather, sit in the sun, and just chill and listen to and enjoy....

  • 50 Cent at Parliament and Wyclef Jean at The Underground

    50 Cent at Parliament and Wyclef Jean at The Underground

    Shots in The Dark at Parliament Nightclub with 50 Cent and The Underground Nightclub with Wyclef Jean and Joey Fatone July 31st

  • Lolla day 1: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    Lolla day 1: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    One day down! Here’s the best and worst we saw at Lolla on Friday, plus a few superlatives from day 1. Best: Anyone who knows me knows I was bound to pick Paul McCartney as my favorite act of the day. The Beatle came out and gave it his all with more than two hours of hits, tributes and jokes about...

  • Lolla day 1: Let's just rename it Paul-apalooza

    Lolla day 1: Let's just rename it Paul-apalooza

    What can you really say about Sir Paul McCartney, the former Beatle, pop music pioneer, worldwide cultural icon, and all-around great guy, that hasn't already been said? I mean, seriously. With the Beatles changing music for the better, becoming a pop culture institution and being "more popular...

Comments
Loading
93°