JDIFF 2013 Review – A Hijacking

The crew of a Danish cargo ship are taken hostage in the Indian Ocean by Somali pirates who demand a small fortune for their safe return. As the crisis moves from days to months, the situation becomes ever more desperate for those at sea, and those negotiating their safe return.

Writer/director Tobias Lindholm is arguably best known for his screenwriting skills, having penned, among other things, TV show Borgen and Thomas Vinterberg’s heartbreaking film The Hunt. In his debut solo work – but not his first time behind the camera – Lindholm weaves a tale of leadership, teamwork and power in a tense thriller.

The lead that emerges at sea is the ship’s cook, Mikke (Pilou Asbæk) who becomes unofficial go between and de facto negotiator. Asbæk allows the character to swing between fear and bravado has he struggles to negotiate the ever-changing mood upon the ship. Asbæk becomes the emotional heart of the film as he tries to keep everyone alive and safe, and his performance is riveting. Back on dry land, Mikke’s employer, Peter (Søren Malling) tries to handle the situation himself, despite the fact that an expert has been brought in to oversee proceedings. Malling is stoic and professional when dealing with the negotiation, and can often seem cruel, but the toll that the situation is taking on him quickly becomes evident. In fact, Malling and Asbæk’s characters go through a similar arc, albeit for different reasons.

Lindholm, in making the decision to switch between hostages and negotiators has created a rounded and powerful story about a violent incident. Instead of focusing on the violence and the action, Lindholm allows the people to take centre stage, and it is their relationships that become the crux of the story. By focusing on the characters, allowing the tension to ebb and flow and ending the crisis almost anticlimactically, Lindholm has created a feeling of verisimilitude; there are no set pieces here – even the initial hijacking is not shown on screen – just the examination of the psychological impact of a global phenomenon that has rarely been explored on screen.

A Hijacking is a character driven story about the psychological and emotional impact that a violent event can have on those involved. The feeling of surviving without knowing how is evident throughout the film, but never more so in the final, quiet scenes of the film. Lindholm proves that he is a writer with an eye for detail and a director with a talent for examining the emotional, rather than the overly dramatic.

Rating: 3.5/5

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