We’ve had our fair share of cartoonish caricatures when it comes to pirates in recent years, with Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow and in a literal sense Aardman’s family friendly film devoted to such swashbuckling. With such figures now becoming a legitimate threat in the nether regions of our world, it was only a matter of time before we were provided a painstaking depiction. Already proving his credibility when dissecting controversial issues with his script for The Hunt starring Mads Mikkelsen last year, Tobias Lindholm returns to the directorial hotseat inspired by ‘real events’ and an eagerness to put his audience through the emotional wringer.
‘A Hijacking’ tells the gripping tale of a well bonded crew aboard the MV Rozen bracing themselves for Mumbai, at the latter end of a gruelling voyage. Much of the running time is invested in chef Mikkel Hartmann (Pilou Asbaek), whom like his fellow crew members is craving the company of his beloved family. Unfortunately for them, they are oblivious to the impending and prolonged trauma they will be subjected to as Somali pirates make their chilling presence known.
Holding the shell shocked crew captive and demanding a hefty ransom in exchange for their freedom, their fate lies in a company ‘fat cat’/CEO named Peter Ludvigsen (Soren Malling) already bogged down by the complications of official business deals. Despite the advisement from expert negotiator Connor (Gary Porter) to steer clear from dealing in such matters and enlisting the help of an outside figure, Peter ploughs on against his wishes locked in fierce conversations with the Somali’s morally conflicted translator Omar (Abdihakin Asgar). The days pass, the tension mounts and many psyches’ start to disintegrate in their efficiency as an agreement struggles to come to fruition..
‘A Hijacking’ thrives on a ‘less is more’ approach to its unnerving premise and the fluidity of Londheim’s direction, as the film’s point of view and native tongue shifts back and forth between the simmering intensity of its various key ‘players’. Uncompromising in its depictions of the appalling conditions the crew increasingly find themselves in, coupled with the raw authenticity instilled by the intelligent and grounded sparring of the negotiations, creates an unshakeable docu-style feel to proceedings.
The film also takes great pride in blurring the lines of its characters. Seemingly reluctant in paying the top dollar whilst at the same time instilling hope into the families of the victims, Soren Malling is compelling as the threatened business figure who can’t handle the burden of such decision-making. Peculiar displays of ‘bonding’ between the armed Somalis and traumatised crew along with Asgar’s Omar toying with Mikkel in particular accentuates the tension to nail-biting levels whilst deftly adding a sense of skewered psychology. Elsewhere, Pilou Asbaek’s Mikkel is the embodiment of desperation and the film’s beating heart, who through a cruel twist of fate is left a broken shell of a man and questioning his own conscience.
A fierce and thought provoking tale frighteningly realised that may just put you off the sight of fax machines for life, ‘A Hijacking’ inevitably is a devastatingly grim cinematic experience. Yet it may just be one of the year’s best.