A Hijacking (15)

Mar 26, 2014
Cranbrook Film Society

Unbearably tense and anti-aesthetic.

For his second directorial feature, Tobias Lindholm (The Hunt) delivers a kind of indifferent, matter-of-fact realism and because it cuts through all the fluff and artifice that has invaded commercial films without compromising momentum as a situation thriller, one must concede that Hijacking has upped the ante on Danish rebellion against the Hollywood system. The refusal to include actual scenes of the hijacking in a film specifically titled “A Hijacking” is no accident.

The cargo ship MV Rozen is hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. Among the eight men crew taken hostage is Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk), the ship’s cook. A translator for the pirates issues demand for $15M in exchange for their release. Back in Copenhagen, CEO of the shipping company Peter (Søren Malling) learns that gaining the upper hand demands patience. So negotiations play out in silence like a sociopathic Fischer-Spassky game: cold, calculated, unyielding.

This film’s quality is raw, unsympathetic and intuitive. Hijacking is filmed on location with a hand held camera in chronological sequence and onboard a sea freighter that was hijacked in the Indian Ocean. Casting also features a real life hostage negotiator as the central figure and naturally, Somali pirates.

Arguably, mechanical reproduction of genuine conditions doesn’t guarantee a convincing film but in this case, it does. Hijacking looks so suitably stained with normality that one instantly recognizes the absence of gimmicky aesthetics. Unmanipulated, you resonate with the film’s fabric of reality while searching for something more, and in the process, gain access into psychological domains that underpin both Peter and Mikkel.

It’s not for nothing that Lindholm went through great lengths to replicate an uncomfortable, pressing scenario because the film offers reflection on an overlooked form of terrorism. Corporations may be showing it to employees as a resource on how to respond during such crises, but Hijacking’s masterstroke is the revelation of an impasse between the moral versus the practical.

Cast: Pilou Asbæk, Søren Malling, Dar Salim

Awards: Nine wins and seventeen nominations

Tobias Lindholm | Denmark | 2012 | 103 mins | 15