A man of faith, Philip Swift was on a mission completely unlike the pirates, scalawags, kings, and sailors he dealt with. His was a mission of salvation, and even when he was taken prisoner and ruthlessly tortured, Philip's spirit remained unbroken. Philip was a strong religious man and a believer in God. This was noted by his appearance, revealing humble missionary lifestyle, such as the plain clothes he wore and his simple cross necklace, which lied close to his heart. It can also be noted by Philip's strong will even after being lashed to the mast of the Queen Anne's Revenge, in which he still managed to cling onto his Bible. A captive, forced to join the crew of the Revenge against his will, Philip Swift was a lonely voice of reason in a world of madness.
Idealistic, courageous, and fearless, the young stalwart and soulful Philip defied even the infamous Blackbeard in an attempt to rescue the terrible pirate's soul. The missionary Philip, who found himself embroiled in the quest for the Fountain of Youth, would have been slain long ago, but Angelica believed he held the key to redeeming Blackbeard. Fearlessly honest, Philip was the only man aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge who dares call Blackbeard a coward. He believed the pirate was afraid to walk the path of righteousness. Although Philip believed that every soul could be redeemed, he knew and admitted that redeeming Blackbeard's own soul was a long shot. As time went on however, Philip grew to believe that Blackbeard was entirely evil and didn't think he was capable of redeeming himself.
A compassionate man, Philip was very caring towards others, most notably to the enigmatic mermaid he named "Syrena". He was the only member of Blackbeard's crew to show any concern for the mermaid and tried to defend her several times. By the end of the search for the Fountain of Youth, Philip had shown love and care for Syrena, and she returned the feelings. But something stirred inside of his heart as well as his soul when he encountered the mermaid—feelings which proved that the path to deliverance may lie beyond the Good Book he carried with him.
Role in the Film
Not much is known about Philip's early life. At some point in his life, Philip became a working missionary in the Caribbean. He was later captured by Blackbeard's crewmen during a raid on a remote island, in which all the others on his ship were killed. But when Blackbeard tried to kill Philip, his beloved daughter Angelica stopped him, because she feared for Blackbeard's soul if he committed such an act, and so Philip was lashed onto the mast of the Queen Anne's Revenge. Despite this painful ordeal, the missionary still managed to cling onto his most precious effect—his holy Bible. Philip would still be held captive during Blackbeard's search for the Fountain of Youth.
By the time Jack Sparrow was forced aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge, Philip was tied to the Revenge's mast, clinging on to his Holy Bible. During the mutiny on the Queen Anne's Revenge, Jack and Salaman went to save Philip. When Salaman said that Philip will be either with them or against them, he refused to join either sides of the fight. After the mutiny was foiled by Blackbeard, which was done by hanging all of the mutineers with the rigging, Blackbeard attempted to kill Jack for leading the mutiny and to make sure everybody wouldn't forget him.
But before Blackbeard could do it, Philip bursts in, calling him a coward, saying that nobody would forget him, no matter how many men he'd kill. Angered by Philip's courage to insult him, Blackbeard attempted to shoot Philip, but was stopped once again by Angelica, as she wanted to save her father's soul. Seemingly touched by his own daughter's wish, believing that every soul could be saved, Blackbeard asked Philip if what Angelica said was true. Philip told him it was, though believed Blackbeard as a longshot, saying that he'd pray for the souls aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge. Blackbeard put away his pistol, touched by Angelica's faith. When Blackbeard ordered the Cook to row away on a longboat, he prepared to fire the Greek fire cannons on him as punishment. Philip tried to change Blackbeard's mind on this matter and spare the Cook's life, but was too late as the Cook was burning alive.
As the longboat was burning on Open Ocean, Blackbeard told to Philip that he felt closest to our Maker when he saw suffering, pain, and anguish, saying it's when the true design of the world is revealed. Philip disagreed, saying he sees it when in times of hardship and tragedy, kindness and compassion are shown to those in need. Blackbeard then suggested Philip prayed the Cook to remain unharmed. Philip once again tries to change Blackbeard's mind, but was once again unsuccessful as Blackbeard had the cannons fired again.
The Queen Anne's Revenge soon made sail to the Whitecap Bay, to capture a mermaid for the Profane Ritual.Blackbeard had Philip, Scrum, Ezekiel, the Cabin Boy, Derrick, Purser, and Gunner, were grouped together in a longboat. Scrum and the other crewmen were forced by Gunner to sing in order to attract the mermaids. When Tamara and other mermaids appeared, Scrum started to get close to her to kiss, despite warning from Philip and the other crewmen to not. As Tamara showed her true form to Scrum, the mermaids then began to attack.
Throughout the mermaid attack, the crewmen's longboat was destroyed as well as Derrick and Purser being killed. Philip was able to swim back to the island along with some of the other crew members. As he got up, the bay's lighthouse exploded. While the debris fell, a mermaid saved Philip by pulling him out of the way. When he got up, he found the mermaid and stabbed her in the tail fin as he believed he was being attacked, an act he later regretted deeply. When he saw her scared, bleeding and trembling, Philip pulled the sword out, but before she could escape, Blackbeard and his crewmen captured her with a net as she hissed. Philip regretfully took credit for the mermaid's capture.
Philip would later travel with the crew to the island in their search for the Fountain of Youth. While journeying through dense jungle and swamps, Philip would follow the captured mermaid who was carried in a glass coffin filled with water by some of the crewmen. Philip later conversed with Jack Sparrow about converting as the pirate asked if he could be welcomed to Heaven. The missionary then noticed that the mermaid was dying because of lack of oxygen. He told the Quartermaster to open the coffin, but he refused. Philip then takes the Quartermaster's sword and breaks the lock on the tank, showing what he said to be true as the mermaid immediately gasped for air. As the Quartermaster pulled back his sword, Philip quickly shoved his Bible in its place.
Later, after witnessing Blackbeard nearly killing Angelica and Jack jumping off a chasm, the crew continued on through the jungles. As they made way, the crew dropped the tank and the mermaid spilled out of it and, because of no water, transforming into her human form. Philip gave her his shirt to cover her nudity even after she refused to help. Blackbeard ordered the mermaid to walk. However, the mermaid was unable to walk, because of Philip's attack and so Blackbeard threatened her by saying to walk or die. To save her from being killed by the Quartermaster, Philip offered to carry her through the journey.
As they made it to another resting point, Philip started to talk to the mermaid about her beauty, while she was silent at this. Though he complimented her, he saw her kind as deadly as he believed she attacked him. But the mermaid denied that claim as she saw Philip as different from other men, saying that he protects. It was that moment when Philip realized that she saved him at Whitecap Bay. Blackbeard ordered to bring the mermaid and cover her head, calling her a "creature", Philip yelled angrily that the mermaid did have a name. Blackbeard waited for Philip to tell it. Though he did not know her true name, Philip said that her name was "Syrena".
Philip accompanied the crew arrived to the Jungle Pools, where mermaids had been bound and left to die. Syrena was put into one of the pools while Blackbeard tried to force her to cry. However, Syrena would not yield. Before Blackbeard could decide whether or not to torture her, Philip stepped in to try and stop Blackbeard. Philip told Blackbeard that his soul couldn't be saved and that Syrena was worth more than a hundred of him. Upon learning that she and Philip fancy each other, Blackbeard exploited their love by threatening to kill Philip. As Syrena watched helpless, either unable or refusing to slip a tear, Blackbeard ordered the Quartermaster to kill Philip, despite Angelica's pleas. Although in reality he only sedated him with a voodoo dart. Syrena was seemingly left to die while Philip's body was dumped nearby.
Philip regained consciousness, not knowing how or why, and immediately ran to free Syrena. Though she was shocked at first in seeing that he was alive, Philip's deed of freeing her and having told her that she is kind and compassionate, caused Syrena to cry a tear of joy. Blackbeard and his crew immediately came to get the tear from Syrena. After getting Syrena's tear in a vial, Blackbeard ordered Syrena to be secured and left at the pools to die. Knowing that he would rebel, Blackbeard ordered his men to tie Philip's hands and he was forced to go with them to find the Fountain of Youth.
Bound and with no way to escape to save Syrena, Philip continued to travel with Blackbeard until the crew met with Jack Sparrow. The crew continued to search for the Fountain of Youth. The search finally reached its end as they journeyed into a blue cave where the entrance to the Fountain was.
Finally reaching the Fountain, the crew's perilous quest was over. But before Blackbeard could taste the water from the Fountain, Hector Barbossa and his crew appeared to arrest Blackbeard. With Blackbeard not wanting to go down without a fight, a battle ensued between the pirates and the British. When the Quartermaster killed one of the British soldiers, Philip tried to use the dead soldier's sword to cut free of his bonds. As he cut, the Cabin Boy appeared and freed him before continuing to fight. As Philip got up, he was suddenly run through the stomach by one of the British soldiers. Philip clutched the wound and, avoiding the battle, ran away to the Jungle Pools to free Syrena from the same fate that other mermaids endured at the pools. Philip believed Syrena dead, but said to God that if she was taken, she must come back. Syrena regained consciousness and swiftly disappeared under water leaving Philip wounded and alone. Alone and mortally wounded, Philip drags himself to the nearest pool to get some water to drink and use to try and heal his wounds. As he splashes the water, Syrena returned and appeared in front of him. Reunited and free from Blackbeard and his crew, the two profess their love once more. Syrena then told Philip that she could save him from dying. Philip then asked Syrena for forgiveness for all the trouble he brought to her, as she would never have been captured had it not been for him. Syrena kissed Philip, giving him the ability to breathe underwater, and pulls him into the pool. Philip was taken by Syrena as they swim through the pools to freedom. His further fate is unknown.
- The role of mermaid-lover Philip Swift, was an appropriate precursor to actor Sam Claflin's later role in The Hunger Games series' Finnick Odair, who hails from the fishing District 4, and is skilled with a net and trident.