Tobias Lindholm’s A Hijacking (Kapringen, 2012) is a refreshingly naturalistic, fictionalised tale of a Danish merchant vessel held captive by Somali pirates. Traversing the usual heightened testosterone and bravado of other hostage dramas, A Hijacking may be short on action, but more than makes up for it with an evolving atmosphere of anxiety and fear. Danish cargo freighter the MV Rozen is currently sailing the Indian ocean, where cook Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk) will shortly disembark in Mumbai and travel home to see his wife and daughter. However, the moment we see him call home, we know exactly what’s about to transpire.
A Hijacking’s eponymous and inevitable assault peculiarly takes a back seat, with Lindholm transferring the action from the endangered crew to a company boardroom in Denmark, where hard-nosed CEO Peter Ludvigsen (Søren Malling) is currently negotiating a lucrative deal with a Japanese conglomerate. He’s interrupted with the devastating news of the seizure of his ship and its seven crew members, with Lindholm bravely depicting key moment of conflict and action through the bureaucracy of a company boardroom.
A Hijacking adheres to Lindholm’s realist sensibilities through some fantastic handheld camerawork which, regardless of setting – be it the plush offices in Denmark, or the run-down mess hall of the Rozen – adds an absorbing and almost voyeuristic viewpoint of this delicate and tense scenario. Deftly balancing the duel psyche of the captive (ship’s cook Mikkel) and the negotiator (Ludvigsen), Lindholm presents us with two psychologically exhausted protagonists – yet in two remarkably different ways. From the strenuous protocols of the negotiations to the harrowing confinement faced by the ship’s crew, we are offered up a narrow, yet somehow all-encompassing portrait of this most arduous and protracted situation.
Force-fed to expect some kind of explosive act of heroism due to our cinematic diet of Hollywood thrillers, the audience is constantly wondering when our heroes will rise above the humiliation and torment they’re undergoing and cease this seemingly endless oppression. However, Lindholm’s unflinching realism remains centre stage throughout; crudely reminding us with a shocking scene that follows the A Hijacking’s eerily sterile ending what such an act of valour would inevitable result in.
Fraught with tension and despair, this agonising drama is the perfect antithesis to the implausible adventures we’ve become ingrained to expect. A Hijacking is a superb film about corporate ideology and the cost of human life filled with excellent performances and told in a brave and confident manner.
This review was originally published on 19 October, 2012, as part of our London Film Festival coverage.