Director: Bryan Buckley
Cast: Evan Peters, Barkhad Abdi, Al Pacino, Melanie Griffith, and Coral Peña
Studio: Crystal Sky Entertainment
Runtime: 117 minutes
Release Date: In limited theaters and on VOD December 8, 2017
Directed, produced, and written by Bryan Buckley, The Pirates of Somalia follows the true story of Jay Bahadur (Evan Peters), a young college graduate who dreams of being an investigative journalist. The only issue is that he keeps getting rejected from every major publication he applies to. Determined to prove himself, Bahadur concocts a plan to travel to Somalia to get a first-hand look at the pirates there in order to write about how they live and why they pirate.
I admit I have a bit of bias when it comes to movies about journalism. I’ve spent the last year and a half of my life working for my school paper while studying the subject. So this innate reason is probably why I was so invested while watching The Pirates of Somalia.
The film is surprisingly heartfelt. It would have been easy to showcase how dangerous Somalia is or how evil the people are. Instead, The Pirates of Somalia offers insight into the history of the Somali people and why they resorted to piracy all those years ago. It doesn’t excuse the horrible aspects of their actions but it gives you a better understanding of the dynamics of the country. I can’t vouch for how accurate it is as I’m no expert on foreign affairs, but it made me want to learn more about the situation.
The Pirates of Somalia, while dark at times, is also surprisingly funny. The writing is sharp and the dialogue fast in some scenes. While Buckley’s script is aware of the importance of the story it’s telling, it doesn’t beat you over the head with it, and at times, pokes fun at how unbelievable certain situations are.
While the writing is fast-paced and self-aware, visually it seems Buckley couldn’t decide which direction he wanted to take the film. Most of the time, the camerawork is handheld and done with a boots-on-the-ground realism that matches the journalism theme. However, occasionally, the film takes a turn for the ultra-stylized — like an over-the-top dream sequence or scenes that utilize flashy neon-soaked animation. And, although these sequences work on their own, they feel jarring and take you out of the moment.
The Pirates of Somalia works best when it’s subtle. Early scenes that take place in Bahadur’s home in Canada are filled with muted blues that match the coldness and blandness of his life. Then, as the film transitions to Somalia, colors become bright and warm to help give the film a more vibrant look that matches the excitement our protagonist feels.
Another bright spot is Peters’ performance. I’ve loved watching him ever since his appearance in Kick-Ass in 2010, and, of course, when he played Quicksilver in X-Men, but it’s nice to finally see him in a leading role. His portrayal of Bahadur is as smug as it is likable. He plays the character with a certain level of naivety that’s both charming and relatable. Bahadur’s drive to uncover the story and share it with the world is one that’s inspiring and Peters nails the nuance of it.
The scene stealer, though, is Barkhad Abdi who plays Abdi, a translator who befriends Bahadur while he’s in Somalia. The two play off each other brilliantly and their bromance is endearing to watch. Abdi plays his role with such joy and charisma, it’s impossible not to enjoy him each time he’s on screen.
Wasted, though, is Al Pacino in what feels like an overextended cameo. He plays Seymour Tolbin, a famous reporter who meets Bahadur by happenstance and encourages his trip to Somalia. It feels like Pacino is dialing in his performance due to him mumbling most of his lines. It also doesn’t help that he’s in the film for a grand total of 10 minutes, at the most. Granted, his character is important to the plot but given the little screen time he has, and the fact that his character is fictional, his inclusion is more puzzling than enjoyable.
Despite the few flaws, The Pirates of Somalia is well worth watching, especially for those who respect real journalism. It’s heartfelt, cerebral, and a tribute to those who want to change the world with words.
For more on The Pirates of Somalia, visit:
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5126922/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PiratesofSomalia/
All Photos: ©2017 Crystal Sky Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.
© 2017, Dustin Kogler. All rights reserved.
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