Hollywood’s military complex

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In 2009, Somali pirates hijacked the cargo ship Maersk Alabama and took its captain, Richard Phillips, hostage in a lifeboat. Within days, the U.S. military stormed in, equipped with a guided missile destroyer, a Wasp amphibious assault ship, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, several helicopters and members of Seal Team Six. In the movie, Tom Hanks plays Captain Phillips, while a similar missile destroyer, the Wasp, the helicopters, and the Seals play themselves (though they are not on active duty) — courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

Even in an age of special effects, it’s exponentially cheaper to film on actual military ships with real military advisers. Despite action sequences and an A-list lead, Captain Phillips cost about $55 million to make (compared with a visual effects fest like Gravity, which cost about $100 million). The fulcrum of Hollywood’s unlikely partnership is Phil Strub, a former film school student and…

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