Captain Phillips and a story about fatherhood
Image via Sony Pictures

[twitter]I sat in 22A, staring at the glossy screen of my iPad sobbing as the final minutes of Captain Phillips played.

Not just a tear-trickling-down-your-cheek sobbing it was a shoulder shrugging sob. Had I been standing I would have had to sit. Had my kids or wife been near me, I would have fallen into their embrace. Instead it was a wrangler wearing retired cowboy who believed the metric system is what’s wrong with Canada in 22B, so I did my best to hold in my emotions.

I wasn’t entirely successful.

The moment was that heavy. The “dad moment” I call it. The only other times I have felt like that in my life were the moments my children were born. I was fine, standing bedside, holding my wife’s hand, cheering her on. Then, at the first sound of my son’s cry, I crumpled. I. was. a. dad. That life was my responsibility and it was a weight that brought me to tears of joy.

The final scenes of Captain Phillips were that moving for me.

Maybe it was because I was headed to New Orleans for the Dad 2.0 Summit and I was heightened to parenting sensibilities, but the final 15 minutes of this tense, dramatic film perfectly explains what being a parent is all about.

No real spoiler alerts follow here, this movie is based on real events and so I’m sure you understand what happens in the story. It’s not really the plot that matters, it’s the portrayal of Captain Phillips by Tom Hanks that just brings it all home.

The climax of the scene has arrived. Phillips is blindfolded and his hands are tied to a rail above his head. There is noise, confusion, and lots of screaming aboard his lifeboat. There is a gun to his head and he is certain he’s about to die. He doesn’t plead for his life, he shouts out to his kids. To his wife. He tells them he loves them in a desperate sob to surround himself with family in what he is certain is his final breath.

Captain Phillips and his kids
The real Captain Richard Phillips and his two children. via Lifenotes

But he is rescued and brought aboard a navy ship for a medical exam. After so many hours on the edge of life and death, Phillips is free. He’s mostly silent as the doctor asks him routine medical questions without emotion. And then he breaks. He sobs and cries and realizes the stress is over, he is free. The doctor continues with military protocol, not even squinting a hug at him.

I wanted her to hug him so badly. This man had been through so much and was now wanting to just let the stress drain from him in a human embrace. But she didn’t give it.

I sobbed. I sobbed in joy and understanding for a man who had been through so much and just wanted to see his kids.

My sobbing was my own release from the stress of the movie, it is so tensely shot. I related to the character not as a ship’s captain captured by terrorists, but as a man who loves his kids more than life itself and would give anything for them.

Captain Phillips was such more than a re-enactment of an historical event, it was a study of what it means to be a dad.

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