Starring: Pilou Asbæk, Søren Malling, Dar Salim
You may like this if you liked: King’s Game (Nikolaj Arcel, 2004), Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012), United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006)
On a usual run in the Indian Ocean, the Danish cargo ship MV Rozen is hijacked by armed Somali pirates and the crew of seven taken hostage. The pirates demand a payment of $15million and the company CEO Peter Ludvigsen (Malling) is forced to take part in an intense negotiating game with the pirates. As he is informed to not accept the pirate’s demands straight away to risk them then demanding more, despite pressure from the crew’s families and the company shareholders to finish things, he is faced with an impossible and deeply intense catch 22 situation.
Of course this is hardly the most original story or concept, but what makes A Hijacking a real triumph in film making is the raw and brutal depiction of a situation that does actually occur. This most definitely is not Under Seige, and there is no wannabe Hollywood A list hero here to overpower the pirates and save the day, these are everyday people and their terrifying situation is depicted with brutal and unflinching realism. The dialogue and camera work adding a genuine sense of claustrophobia to all scenes on the ship.
Though the pirates are not depicted as pure evil, this is told purely from the point of view of the crew and Peter. The dialogue of the pirates is in their own language and not subtitled to add to the panic inducing feeling of the unknown that the crew face. The pirates sometimes shout, sometimes talk softly and sometimes smile but as we have no idea what they are saying and the fact they permanently have machine guns in their hands is disconcerting and disturbing.
The true star of this film is Borgen’s Søren Malling, his facial expressions truly capturing with absolute authenticity the impossible situation he faces. We are not given any patronising dialogue; Lindholm respects the viewer and knows we are intelligent enough to understand the absolute seriousness of this situation. Peter is advised to negotiate with the pirates and not meet their demands initially, and so with the negotiations taking months, the strain this puts on him is depicted with acute accuracy that avoids any clichés. The negations that take place over the phone are genuinely tense experiences. There is no scene cutting from one side of the phone call to another, it is only ever shown from one side. We share their anxieties as we can only hear the same communication that they do, and when there is a prolonged silence we genuinely share their feeling of helplessness. Unfortunately Gary Skjoldmose who is only in this film due to his expert knowledge and experience is not an actor and it truly shows. He has a severe lack of screen presence, but thankfully this does not hamper the genuine intensity of the depicted situations.
As the weeks go on, the squalor and loss of hope that the crew face once again avoids all the easy clichés and is shown with genuine intensity. Sometimes the pirates and crew get on, but even these moments are uncomfortable viewing. Lindholm demonstrates throughout that he is a film maker to watch and a director that can depict genuine realism and tension without the clichés.
A Hijacking is a rare film in that it manages to depict authentic intensity and drama without falling into the trap of cliché. This is a genuinely involving, emotional and scary film due to its brutal sense of realism and a reminder just how good a film can be at depicting deeply human stories when it wants to be.