A Hijacking (2012) / Drama-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for language and some violence
Running time: 103 min.
Cast: Pilou Asbaek, Soren Malling, Abdihakin Asgar, Dar Salim, Roland Moller, Gary Skjoldmose Porter, Amalie Ihle Alstrup
Director: Tobias Lindholm
Screenplay: Tobias Lindholm
Review published August 4, 2013
A Hijacking is a fictional drama which is based on incidents that occurred in 2007-08 which Somali pirates took over shipping freighters in the open seas for ransom of large sums of money for the return of the freighter, cargo, and crew.
The story starts with a Danish cargo ship as it traverses through the Indian Ocean. The main protagonist on the vessel is the cook, Mikkel (Asbaek, R), who is telling his wife (Alstrup, The Boys from St. Petri) that he will be a couple of days later than expected home in order to train a new cook in Mumbai. However, with the hijacking of the boat by Somali pirates who are asking for $15 million in cash for ransom, it will be a long time before he sees them again, if he will see them at all.
Meanwhile, back at the shipping company's corporate headquarters in Denmark, despite objections from expert pirate negotiation experts, CEO Peter Ludvisen (Malling, A Royal Affair) decides to take it upon himself to handle the negotiations with the hijackers, utilizing his effective skills in the world of business to try to barter his position. Dealing with a Somali translator named Omar (Asgar), who claims that his life is also on the line should the negotiations turn sour, the back-and-forth makes things tense on both sides of the phone, as one false move could spell the end of a hostage's life.
Written and directed by Tobias Lindholm (screenwriter for The Hunt and Submarino), A Hijacking makes up for the lack of a large budget my making this a more intimate story, utilizing handheld digital cameras to evoke a fly-on-the-wall feeling that puts us right in the middle of the claustrophobic action both on the boat as well as in the tense company negotiation room. Lindholm shows surprising restraint throughout his film in not going for a knockout, letting events build in their own fashion. It's in the acting, though, that A Hijacking manages to shine, with a particularly effective emotional performance by Asbaek, and a brilliant buttoned-up ice-man delivery by Malling who initially sees his role as money negotiator get cloudy now that the human element is in the mix. The best acting comes just through the expressions on the faces of the superb actors.
Most of the momentum is in the first hour, ratcheting up the tension through human drama. Interestingly, the Somali pirates are never painted as purely evil, and there are moments when we see the Somalis and Danes enjoying each other's company in such activities as fishing and a song or two. The Somali pirates do what they can to tighten the vise on the threats, using surrogates to make their heartfelt pleas to pay off whatever amount of money to assure a safe return home for the men.
A Hijacking is a harrowing, realistic dramatic account of pausible events that delivers gritty suspense and thoughtfulness in equal measure. It's a serious, often downbeat film, resistant to screenplay embellishments to make for a better story, so this is definitely recommended for those who like to see and feel "in the moment" with their thrillers, rather than for it to be packaged in the most crowd-pleasing way possible. Brilliant performances lead the way to making this one of the year's most intense true-to-life thrillers.
©2013 Vince Leo