Tom Hanks is winning plaudits left, right and center for his portrayal of merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips in Paul Greengrass's critically acclaimed movie. The Hollywood actor's performance as the titular hero who stood up to Somali heroes in April 2009 is likely to see him do battle with Robert Redford for the Oscar for Best Actor in March 2013.

Tom Hanks Captain PhillipsTom Hanks as Captain Phillips

However, as Greengrass's movie prepares to hit screens in the UK following a strong opening across the Atlantic, crew members of the Maersk Alabama - which suffered the raid 4 years ago - have questioned Phillips' hero status.

In conversation with the New York Post, the sailors - who are suing their employers for $50 million - said Captain Phillips was a self-righteous man with a willful disregard for his crew's safety, which ultimately contributed to the attack.  

"Phillips wasn't the big leader like he is in the movie" said one crew member who asked to remain anonymous for legal reasons. "No one wants to sail with him."

The crew member said Phillips, who went on to write a memoir, refused to cut power and lock himself and the crew below deck, in line with anti-pirate protocol. "He didn't want anything to do with it, because it wasn't his plan. He was real arrogant."

Tom Hanks Captain Phillips MovieTom Hanks In The Lifeboat In 'Captain Phillips'

The sailor's lawyer, Deborah Waters, told the newspaper, "The crew had begged Captain Phillips not to go so close to the Somali coast. He told them he wouldn't let pirates scare him or force him to sail away from the coast.

"It is galling for them to see Captain Phillips set up as a hero," she added. "It is just horrendous, and they're angry."

According to the report, Phillips was warned to keep his ship at least 600 miles off the Somali coast because 16 container ships had been attacked by pirates three weeks earlier. The crew-member said his captain guided the vessel 235 miles off the coast, though Phillips maintains it was 300 miles.

In the hijacking, four Somali pirates boarded the Maersk Alabama, which had a crew of 20. Most of the crew members locked themselves in the engine room while Captain Phillips and two other crew members remained on the bridge.

Tom HanksHanks Negotiates With The Pirates in 'Captain Phillips'

The pirates were unable to take control of the ship owing to the crew members steering from the gear room. The crew later used brute force to overpower one of the pirates and free one of the hostages, leaving the pirates to back down and retreat to a lifeboat with Phillips as a bargaining tool. 

The publisher of Phillps's book A Captain's Duty promoted him as a sea captain who risked his life by offering himself as a hostage "in exchange for the safety of the crew," - something the captain himself later acknowledged was a fallacy spread by erroneous media reports. 

Captain Phillips hits cinemas in the UK on October 18, 2013.

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