Fishing Without Nets
by: Anthony Zangrillo
This movie will inevitably be juxtaposed to last year’s Captain Phillips, as they are both films about Somali Piracy.
Coming into this movie, I was hopeful that Fishing Without Nets would tell a far more realistic story of piracy, perhaps more from the perspective of the pirates themselves. In all fairness, it did.
The movie starts out promisingly enough. In fact, it starts out quite strong. The opening scene is of a young Somali man, Abdi, who is a very poor fisherman saving money to get his wife and young child to a better life in Yemen. He does not have enough money to get himself there yet, but he can get them to safety with his tiny savings.
The conflict is quickly brought to the foray: if Abdi becomes a pirate, he can make enough money to join his wife and child in Yemen. Since he is a fisherman and he knows the merchant sea routes, he is extremely valuable to the Somali pirates.
Thus he is drafted into their crew, and the pirates take over a French merchant ship, and begin the process of negotiating a ransom.
And here is where the movie falls apart. First of all, the character of Abdi basically disappears for scenes upon scenes. Everybody ends up just waiting around (the pirates, the hostages). It appears that the director was trying to accurately portray the tedious process of negotiating for a ransom, but he completely abandoned his main character, the initial conflict of the movie, and decides to focus on thematic vignettes about the hostages and the pirates, which only serve to show how terrible it is to live in Somalia.
The last third of the movie deals primarily with a mutiny by a pirate called Blackie. This mutiny happens right before the French are to deliver the money in exchange for the hostages. In this money swap, the pirates are to fly two signal flags (B and M), and the plane will drop the money into the sea. Blackie isn’t privy to this information, kills the Pirate Captain, and of course, doesn’t raise the flag. Thus, the money isn’t dropped, a hostage gets murdered, Abdi is locked in the belly of the ship, and the pirates abandon the French Merchant Vessel.
And here is where things become unrealistic. Now, we finally return to Abdi, our main character, whose wife is being held hostage by a Yemeni people smuggler (he has to get more money to the smuggler or his wife will be sold into slavery). Abdi is abandoned and imprisoned on the now useless merchant ship. However, using his sheer will to survive, he bursts through the ducts of the ship onto the deck, to see lo and behold, the ransom plane has returned, and Abdi knows to lift the signal flags to get the ransom! With all the gusto of a man who knows he’s going to make a million dollars, Abdi hoists the flags, launches a skiff, and paddles out to the buoyant case of money. And that’s where we end, with Abdi now a millionaire in the middle of the Arabian Gulf.
Are you kidding me?
What is this, some bizarre take on the American Dream, but with piracy? The pirate we have all but ignored now suddenly becomes a millionaire and owns a ship all to himself! The entire movie is orchestrated so that this man can become a millionaire. The mutiny, the murders of the hostages, the abandonment of the ship, all exist so Abdi can have his happy ever after. The Somali Dream: let fellow pirates murder each other and the hostages, and then abscond with the money.
And of course, the movie ends right then. Never mind the fact that he has to get to Yemen, the pirates are going to come looking for him, and the French government is going to lose its mind when they realize they paid a ransom and didn’t get a single hostage back in the process.
This movie is egregiously lacking in the basic principles of logic. That is the true, disastrous flaw of this movie. The director sets out to create a realistic, honest take on Piracy in Somalia, and for the majority of the movie, he follows it to a fault. But then, at the end of the movie, he ditches this concept for an unrealistic, bizarre ending that left me completely aghast.
This was a poorly cobbled together attempt at story telling. There are improperly jammed in elements of dramatic irony, Greek tragedy, and hero’s conquest, but none of them work together. Instead, each of these styles fights against each other, creating a very poor movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be.
I would not recommend.