Director: Tobias Lindholm
Starring: Pilou Asbæk, Søren Malling
Length: 99 minutes
Tobias Lindholm, the man who scripted The Hunt and Borgen, presents audiences with A Hijacking (Danish: Kapringen), a taut thriller that eschews standard Hollywood tactics. It is set on a Danish cargo ship captured by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. As the hostage negotiations drag on for months, tempers on both sides inevitably fray, leaving the fate of the hostages hanging in the balance.
Without recourse to showy explosions, high-speed chases or ostentatious music, the film perfectly maintains a sense of tension throughout. It cuts between the twin claustrophobic tinderboxes of the ship itself and the boardroom of the company that owns it. Indeed, the film has much to say about corporate manoeuvring and negotiation. An adviser brought in to help Peter (Malling), the CEO of the company, reminds him that this is unlike the hundreds of business negotiations he has handled before. He must maintain control of the situation and emotional detachment at all times. This proves far easier said than done.
Meanwhile, Mikkel (Asbæk), the ship’s cook, is used as an intermediary in the negotiations, used as emotional manipulation, pleading and begging his boss to bring him and his crewmates home by paying the ransom demands. It is easy to see how the tension will mount as the film progresses, and, without giving too much away, it is unclear to the last moment whether the hostages will survive.
This is due to the fantastic unpredictability of the pirates – sometimes seeming to have a total disregard for the lives of their captives, and at other times to have bonded with them, such as through the shared effort of catching fish to replenish a dwindling food supply. They are fickle, and this is what makes them terrifying.
Fantastic performances and grinding realism are the bread and butter of this film. The enormous talent of the cast is all Lindholm needs to create a powerful sense of tension. Filmed on board a ship that was itself captured by pirates, the film acquires a chilling resonance and plausibility. As much a documentary in style as it is a thriller, A Hijacking is deeply rewarding, even if it might stretch your nerves to the edge of endurance.