Film Review: “The Pirates of Somalia”

The story of a young graduate who wants to become a hot-shot journalist, receives the advice

“you wanna make it as some big-swinging dick journalist, you gotta go somewhere fucking crazy”

and goes to Somalia to learn and write about pirates is fascinating, not least because it’s the true story of Canadian journalist Jay Bahadur.

Sadly though, the movie The Pirates of Somalia distorts this feat of reporting into an unrealistic (TV stations admitting on air that they have absolutely no sources? the Canadian journalist having a flirtatious affair with the drug-dealing wife of the pirate mastermind?) slapstick film, with Evan Peters playing a buffoon character out of a high-school comedy. Each time he pleads how important it is that the world learns what is happening in Somalia, one wonders why the much more competent Somali journalists can’t do that job.

The stupid dream scenes, some of them in Quentin-Tarantino-rip-off manga style, discredit the film completely.

After the movie, I watched an interview with Jay Bahadur to see if he was really as clueless and dim as portrayed by Evan Peters, and – no surprise – he isn’t:

The smartest thing is probably to read Mr Bahadur’s book The Pirates of Somalia: Inside their Hidden World and remember that not all books need to be turned into films.

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
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3 Responses to Film Review: “The Pirates of Somalia”

  1. David says:

    “not all books need to be turned into films”

    Andreas, that’s real British understatement. Better say “very rarely do books need to be turned into films”.

    What they did to The Name of the Rose was a travesty, in spite of Sean Connery.

    • I actually thought of expressing that sentiment more strongly and generally and I fully agree with you. A recent very bad example was “The Circle”, which I found a good and thought-provoking book and which, judging by the trailer, was turned into a lousy movie.

      Trying to think of a film that is better than the book, only the James Bond films come to mind (which may not be a high bar because the books are nothing special). With “Schindler’s List”, I haven’t read the book, but cannot imagine that it is better than the film. But then, not every director is Steven Spielberg.
      And maybe some action- and atmosphere-focused stories like “Black Hawk Down”, but again I haven’t read the book there.

    • David says:

      Haven’t read or seen The Circle.

      Same with Schindler’s List. (Yes, I admit it.)

      I like your point re action movies – since the books tend to be rather superficial, the movies can indeed improve them.

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