Archive for category Film

Film: My Review Of The Somali Project

 

I finally got a chance to watch The Somali Project, which was originally called The Project. This documentary was purchased by The Vladar Company and the film is now available to buy or rent. With that said, I was able to rent the film through youtube, and it is fantastic! When you rent it, you get the film for 48 hours. You also have the choice to rent a High Definition version, and that is what I went with.

Now I had read about the film and how it did at the Tribeca Film festival, I blogged about it, and I watched the trailer. But I never got a chance to watch the whole thing. Here on the blog, I have also written about the Puntland Maritime Protection Force and about piracy off the coast of Somalia during the peak years of that problem. It was a horrible deal, with hundreds of folks taken hostage and just rotting away off the coast of Somalia in captured ships. My interest in the matter was getting armed guards on boats, so that these pirates would have friction at sea. On land, the PMPF was the answer to attacking the source of piracy.

The film starts off with the families of hostages who were from places like India. Heart wrenching to say the least. Basically these hostages were tortured, and treated horribly and their captors were negotiating with the companies that owned these captured vessels. Some companies paid the ransom, and others did not. Some companies just gave up on the whole deal and just left their employees/contractors to rot. Either way, there were multiple ships parked off the coast of Somalia that were captured and being held by pirates and no one was doing any rescues.

Next in the film, we see an individual named Roger Carstens who paid a visit to the PMPF camp in Somalia and accompanied the PMPF on their first mission. He was an observer that worked for The New America Foundation at the time. He was also prior special forces according to his LinkedIn profile and he provided a lot of the commentary in this film.

Now for the main stars of this film–Erik Prince was the idea guy, and EO veteran Roelf Van Heerden was the commanding officer of this operation. Erik had several cameos in this film and discussed some of the ideas behind ‘The Project” as it was called. Roelf was the CO of the entire operation, and his fellow South African mentors/trainers were heavily involved in training these Somalis. And what a process that was. It was also interesting to see a Somali American that was a member of the PMPF.

They did a great job in the film showing exactly how difficult it was to train these guys. We are talking about folks who don’t even know how to put shoe laces in boots, or what basic hygiene was or any of that stuff. The trainers mentioned how much of a challenge this really was. They were taking a very rough product and trying to make soldiers out of them. It was a challenge that any contractor or military guy that has been in this position, can appreciate.

We also get to see how well the PMPF camp was constructed. Within that camp, you get to see all the equipment they had, to include air assets. Here is what they had according to wikipedia and Defence Web.

The Puntland Maritime Police Force possesses both maritime and land security capacities. The force has three Ayres Thrush low-wing aircraft fitted with armored cockpits and engines to protect the crew and aircraft from hostile ground fire. It also operates an Antonov An-26 transport aircraft and a Aérospatiale Alouette III helicopter.

For naval capabilities, it operates three rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs), which are armed with 12.7 mm DShK heavy machine guns.

I really like the use of the An-26 for paracargo operations. For long range operations on the ground, they were using this aircraft to drop fuel and supplies.

When they finished training their first batch of PMPF forces, they then went on to conduct their first operation, complete with air support. And this is where the film gets interesting… They go into detail about what exactly happened during the incident where one of the SA mentors was killed. His name was Lodewyk Pietersen and I do remember writing about this when it happened. This film shows exactly what went down, and how something like that could happen. Basically a nephew of a pirate, whom infiltrated the PMPF, instigated a mutiny of sorts, and executed this SA mentor as a means of putting a halt to the mission. The pirates knew that if they could kill a mentor, that the operation would stop and the Puntland government would want everyone to stop and get back. Which is what happened and I wrote about that as well. Roger Carstens mentioned that the pirates identified the ‘center of gravity’ of the PMPF, which were the mentors, and effectively attacked it.

What happens next though, is what I was impressed with. The contract at that point was buried and folks went home–except for a few volunteers that stayed behind. Roelf was one of them, and he continued to lead the PMPF in further operations. He and his team were definitely involved in combat, and definitely used their air assets. The film goes on to talk about all the rescue missions and raids that this team went on, and thanks to the leadership of Roelf, they were able to successfully free hostages! I talked about one of those operations awhile back (MV Iceberg) and it was impressive. Roelf was instrumental in keeping that unit operational and effective, and Roger Carstens was impressed with Roelf’s performance out there. Especially against such great adversity. ‘This is Africa’, the saying goes, and these men were definitely dealing with some African friction. lol

Other characters in the film included interviews with UN folks, and South Africans like Lafras Luitingh, another Executive Outcomes veteran.

Overall, this film is excellent and it is worth your time to watch. It puts into perspective what these men were up against for this contract and I have a lot of respect for what they did. This film brings attention to the complexities of modern warfare and what private industry can accomplish. It also brings attention to the sacrifice and hard work of those whom are on the ground, doing the job that no one else was willing to do or wanted to do. These men were absolutely responsible for the rescue of multiple hostages taken by pirates, and they definitely had an impact on the overall piracy problem of the time.

The results speak for themselves–piracy is at an all time low thanks to what has been done on land and at sea by private companies. It is a success story, and one that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. –Matt

 

Rent or Buy at Amazon, iTunes, Vimeo, Google, or Youtube, take your pick.

 

 

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Film: War Dogs

Oh yeah, this looks good. If anyone remembers the company AEY Inc. and their fraudulent contracts with the government, here is their story in the form of a comedy. The government absolutely dropped the ball when it came to it’s contracting procedures, and sleazeball dorks like these guys took advantage. Here is a backgrounder on it via wikipedia.

Efraim Diveroli is a former American arms dealer. His company, AEY Inc., was a weapons contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense. Convicted in January 2011 of fraud, he was sentenced to four years in federal prison.

On March 27, 2008, the U.S. government suspended AEY Inc. for infringing upon the terms of its contract; in violation of a pre-existing arms embargo, the company was accused of supplying ammunition manufactured in China to the Afghan National Army and police. United States Army documents showed that the company totaled more than $200 million in contracts to supply ammunition, assault rifles, and other weapons in 2007. As a result of publicity surrounding the contract, the United States Army began a review of its contracting procedures.

A company Diveroli owns, Ammoworks, continued selling arms while he awaited trial for conspiracy.  In late August 2008, he pled guilty on one count of conspiracy, and was sentenced to four years in prison on January 4, 2011. He was further sentenced for possessing a weapon while out on bond.

His former employee, David Packouz, was sentenced to seven month’s house arrest. Packouz later went on to invent a guitar pedal drum machine, the BeatBuddy.

After his release from prison, Diveroli was sued in Florida State court by his cousin, Joseph Wachtel, for extortion.

The story of Diveroli and Packouz is the subject of an upcoming Todd Phillips comedy film, War Dogs, starring Jonah Hill as Diveroli and Miles Teller as Packouz. The film is due for release on August 19, 2016.

Actually, there is a lot more of these types of stories that could be done. Lots of material.

You could classify movies like this as the new Pentagon Wars… lol –Matt

War Dogs website here.

War Dogs Facebook here.

 

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David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli of AEY Inc.

 

War Dogs (previously known as Arms and the Dudes) is an upcoming American biographical criminal comedy film directed by Todd Phillips and written by Phillips, Jason Smilovic and Stephen Chin, based on the Rolling Stone article by Guy Lawson. Lawson has since written a book titled Arms and the Dudes detailing the story. The film follows two arms dealers, David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, who get a government contract to supply weapons for US troops in Afghanistan. The film stars Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, Ana de Armas and J. B. Blanc. Filming began on March 2, 2015 in Romania. The film is scheduled to be released by Warner Bros. Pictures on August 19, 2016.
Two arms dealers, David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, secure a $300 million government contract to supply weapons for US allies in Afghanistan. They soon find themselves in danger abroad and in trouble back home.

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Film: Saints And Strangers

My interest in this show is the private security angle and their importance to the founding fathers of the United States. It is a part of the story that always gets lost, but was absolutely critical to the early days of these pilgrims and their existence in the new world.

The videos below are cool background pieces, and especially the one about Myles Standish. I also liked this piece of video on the colonial weapons used. (wiki for Myles here)

Another relevant story to add in regards to Thanksgiving, are some of the myths associated with it. Like the actual food that was eaten (sorry, no pumpkin pie lol), and the probability that it wasn’t a day called Thanksgiving or celebrated in November. It was just a harvest celebration mimicking the English harvest festival, and it was probably celebrated late September or early October.

On Thanksgivings in the past, I have talked about the private security effort that was so crucial to the founding of my country, and it is very cool to finally see a show that describes the kind of environment they were operating in. A big hat tip to National Geographic and check your local listings when they show the series again. Happy Thanksgiving. –Matt

 

SAINTS & STRANGERS
Saints & Strangers is a story that goes beyond the familiar historical account of Thanksgiving and the founding of Plymouth Plantation, revealing the trials and tribulations of the settlers at Plymouth: 102 men, women and children who sailed on a chartered ship for a place they had never seen. Of this group, half are those we think of as “pilgrims,” religious separatists who abandoned their prior lives for a single cause: religious freedom. The other half, the “merchant adventurers,” had less spiritual and more material, real-world objectives. This clash of values created complex inner struggles for the group as they sought to establish a new colony, compounded by a complicated relationship with the local Native American tribes. The conflicting allegiances among these groups culminated in trials of assimilation, faith, and compromise, that continued to define our nation to this day.

 

 

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Film: Sicario

This looks good. I have written in the past about the brutality of the drug war in Mexico, and the all out warfare that the cartels conduct against one another. Finally it looks like Hollywood is willing to go down south and explore this brutality. The director is Denis Villeneuve and his work is pretty intense.

The film will be in theaters September 18, 2015 and it will star Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber and Jon Bernthal. It has already shown in the Cannes Film Festival and it did really well. –Matt

 

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Website for the film here.

In Mexico, SICARIO means hitman.

In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent [Emily Blunt] is enlisted by an elite government task force official [Josh Brolin] to aid in the escalating war against drugs.

Led by an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past [Benicio Del Toro], the team sets out on a clandestine journey forcing Kate to question everything that she believes in order to survive.

A Lionsgate presentation, a Black Label Media presentation, a Thunder Road production, a Denis Villeneuve film.

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Film: The PMSC Tasked With Protecting Jurassic World–InGen Security

This is cool. Apparently in this summer’s blockbuster film called Jurassic World, there is a PMSC that they have promoted in trailers as the ones tasked with protecting the park. Below I have posted the main trailer for the film, which shows that the Jurassic park has been built and dinosaurs have been created through genetic engineering. In the second clip below, it shows the PMSC named InGen Security which is a business unit of Masarani Global. The Vic Hoskins character seems to be the CEO of InGen Security, played by the actor Vincent D’Onofrio.

Of course in the prior Jurassic Park films, InGen was a genetics company. Apparently in this film, InGen was bought up after economic collapse (due to dinosaurs destroying the business model) by Masrani Global and then converted into a PMSC. Kind of odd restructuring if you ask me, but hey that is the storyline. lol

Now what will be interesting to watch here, is how this PMSC is portrayed in the movie. One group that blogged about this element of the movie believes that InGen Security will be made out to be the bad guys and get the ‘dinosaur treatment’ in the end. That seems to be inline with how Hollywood treats PMSC’s in film these days. We saw this in the film Avatar and the bad guy company there was RDA. It was still a fun film to watch.

Who knows and we will see how this turns out? I do know that this is the first film I have ever heard of where the story’s PMSC is tasked with protecting folks in an environment filled with out of control dinosaurs. I mean InGen Security did clean up that ‘infamous flying reptile “cleanup” operation over Canada in 2001’, according to the news story from the company website. So they can’t be all that bad. lol

From a marketing point of view, it is neat that the film companies out there are making company websites like this to further support the story. The Masrani Global website looks great, and I look forward to checking out the film on the big screen this summer. –Matt

Edit: 06/15/2015- I got a chance to see the movie and it was fun. InGen’s part in the movie was basically trying to stop an out of control hybrid dinosaur. The interesting part here is that at first, the security force was limited in what they could use to stop this thing–meaning only using less than lethal force. Which of course turns out bad, and the force gets decimated by a beast that was impervious to electric shock weapons. The reason for less than lethal force was that Masarani wanted to protect their dinosaur freak show investment….

Then when all is looking hopeless, InGen brings in their ‘serious’ security folks by helicopter, and they are actually tasked with killing. Although the armaments looked pretty weak for going after such a beast. A lot of shotgun and small caliber weapons, and then one anti-tank launcher, which I think was an AT-4. (check out the IMFD for the movie here) In my opinion, they did not bring enough ‘big guns’ to the fight. If they had a helicopter or similar aircraft, they could have used a rocket launcher. Or use an IED attached to some bait. But for the film, it is more exciting to see these guys go after this beast like a squad going on the hunt in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Now what was also different about this movie, was the InGen Security side of the house wanted to use trained Velociraptors as a weapon of war (War Velociraptors?). Meaning set these things loose against an enemy. Chris Pratt’s character was the guy tasked with training and working with a pack of Velociraptors, and he eventually used them to go after this hybrid dinosaur when all other options were exhausted.  This part of the movie was fun to think about and it was an interesting turn.

Vic Hoskins turned out to be the bad guy in charge of the security group. But he was the only guy demonized and he did get killed in the end. The actual PMSC guys doing the fighting and dying, gave a great showing in the movie. Too bad they didn’t have character that was an antithesis to Vic’s character, amongst the security force. Someone that takes over when Vic dies, and that actually connects with Pratt’s character in the end to accomplish the goal. Either way, it was a fun movie. The Washington Post did a similar review in regards to PMSC’s in this movie.

 

InGen Security: An Asset Containment Unit officer stands watch at Isla Nublar’s Jurassic World.

InGen Security: No Laughing Matter.

With the number of reported Central American poaching vessels increasing in the Meurtes Archipelago over the last year, InGen’s security division, headed by Vic Hoskins, has been busy ramping up operations in the Gulf of Fernandez.

“We don’t have the capacity to take things for granted around here”, Vic says. “While some of our work is assisting the staff at Jurassic World, we also have a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations to monitor activity on Isla Nublar and its neighboring islands.”

Poachers have been known to risk their own lives working in the service of ruthless collectors. It has also been reported that some individuals have been responsible for mishandling captured specimens, with disturbing hospitalization cases on the Costa Rican mainland.

“This area of the world is controlled by a multi-national coalition, and our Asset Containment teams spearhead keeping this region safe and protected. With the use of state-of-the-art equipment and communication technology provided through partnerships with various Masrani Global subsidiaries, we can do just that.”

A seasoned security contractor, Vic Hoskins was involved in overseeing the infamous flying reptile “cleanup” operation over Canada in 2001. Due to the professionalism his team displayed, he was hired personally by Simon Masrani to re-develop InGen’s Security Division, which helped oversee the protection of workers on Isla Nublar during Jurassic World’s construction.

 

 

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Film: Go See Captain Phillips!

Finally, a film that I can rejoice about. I wrote about this film back in 2011 and I have been anxiously anticipating it’s release ever since. I was not disappointed either and I highly recommend this film.

For those that are not familiar with this incident, here is a quick snippet from wikipedia.

The Maersk Alabama hijacking was a series of maritime events that began with four pirates in the Indian Ocean seizing the cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama 240 nautical miles (440 km; 280 mi) southeast of the port city of Eyl, Somalia. The siege ended after a rescue effort by the U.S. Navy on 12 April 2009. It was the first successful pirate seizure of a ship registered under the American flag since the early 19th century.It was the sixth vessel in a week to be attacked by pirates who had previously extorted ransoms in the tens of millions of dollars.

The story of the incident was reported in the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea (2010) by Stephan Talty and Captain Richard Phillips, who had been master of the vessel at the time of the incident. The hijacking also inspired the 2013 film Captain Phillips, with Tom Hanks playing Richard Phillips in the title role, Barkhad Abdi playing Abduwali Muse and Faysal Ahmed playing Najee.

What is unique about this film is that the audience already knows what has happened, so the directors/actors/writers all had to make a movie about the journey or story, and make it compelling enough to keep the audience’s attention. I believe this film accomplished this task. The director Paul Greengrass is also famous for directing the Bourne movies, and you can totally see that style of film making in this film.

For Captain Philips, Tom Hank’s performance and portrayal of the man was excellent. He did not over act the thing, and you really got a sense of the frustration and fear he and the crew experienced prior too and during this incident. The last scene of the movie was especially gut wrenching, and this performance among others will make this movie a strong contender for the Academy Awards. (six nominations by the way…)

The other star of this film is the Somali pirates. The movie did an excellent job of summarizing what drives these pirates and not choosing a political angle. At first I thought they would justify why these pirates are doing what they are doing because of a lack of fish or some other lame excuse. That these were ‘poor fishermen’ and all the fish have been removed by larger commercial operations so they had to turn to piracy.

Nope, the pirates mentioned this angle briefly as an excuse, but at the end of the day, a pirate is a pirate. And you see the Captain Phillips character go through this arc of perception of his captors as well. At the end of the day, he came to the right conclusion that these were greedy and violent men, bent on doing whatever it took to get the job done. So I was glad that the movie portrayed these guys correctly, yet still gave you something to think about as to their reasoning for being pirates.

Which by the way, the Somali pirate leader Muse was played by Somali actor Barkhad Abdi and he did an outstanding job! He played the role perfectly as a ‘Captain Ahab style leader‘, driven to capture his whale called the Maersk Alabama. Barkhad is also an Academi Award nominee.

I have been following the maritime security industry for the last couple of years, ever since piracy became a huge deal. The Maersk Alabama hijacking brought some seriously needed attention to the matter. It is just one incident of many, that really drove my thoughts and opinions on what needed to happen in the maritime security industry. That less than lethal was a joke when it came to dealing with pirates armed with RPG’s and AK 47’s.

As I watched the film I kept thinking that these guys needed armed guards–which was my mantra back when this first came out in the news. If anything, this incident got the ball rolling as to why armed guards are so important, and the film did an excellent job of showing why. I am sure the audience came to the same conclusions as well.

To that point, it was the outstanding accuracy and cunning of the Navy SEAL sniper team that ended this ordeal. I thought this aspect of the movie was well played, and proportional. The SEAL aspect of this film did not drown out the Somali pirate crew story or the Maersk Alabama crew and captain story. It was all equal parts of the story, as it should be.

I was also taken aback by the enormity of the shipping ports and these vessels. The actual Maersk Alabama vessel was used in this film, thanks to Maersk, and the US Navy contributed aircraft and vessels as well for this film. All of it added realistic detail to the film and made it very believable. You actually felt like you were there with Captain Phillips and the pirates and the Navy SEALs, as they all were living through such horrible and complex ordeal.

A big hat tip to director Paul Greengras and executive producer Kevin Spacey, and the rest of the crew/actors/writers for getting this movie made. This thing gets a big Feral Jundi thumbs up and definitely check it out on the big screen if you can! –Matt

Buy the DVD box set on Amazon here.

Facebook page for film here.

Official page of the film here.

 

Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi and Paul Greengrass.

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