An impressive sophomore effort from Tobias Lindholm, A Hijacking tells the story of a Danish cargo ship taken over by Somali pirates, and the efforts to negotiate a peaceful and non-violent end to the affair by those back in Copenhagen.
Lindholm is an incredibly accomplished writer, having penned Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt, this year’s breakout hit and a 2012 Cannes award winner, 2010’s under-the-radar Submarino (also directed by Vinterberg), as well as a number of episodes of the popular political drama Borgen. Donning both the screenwriter and director’s caps, the Dane has delivered on the promise he displayed with his hard-hitting prison drama debut, 2010’s R.
Although the title of his new release might suggest an adrenaline-rush ride, the reality is a little more refined: switching from the ship to the negotiations back in Denmark, the plot racks up incredible tension, ably supported by actors who never overplay their hand. As the ship’s cook, Mikkel Hartmann (Pilou Asbæk) brings restrained pathos to the role – with a wife and a young daughter back home in Denmark, he has more to lose than most of the other men on board. On the other side of the coin is Omar, (Abdihakin Asgar), who negotiates for the lives of these men with the CEO of the shipping company, Peter (played to mild-mannered perfection by Søren Malling), who ignores the advice of the consultant and jumps into the situation with both feet.
Lindberg is audacious in his refusal to portray the hijacking – he doesn’t even stage the actual event, preferring to cut back to the ship after all the excitement is over. However, this should not be read as a negative comment – if anything, the audience is kept in the same position as the shipping company, the tension increasing tenfold as we learn exactly what happened during the hijacking.
The plight of the men is harrowing. As days pile up on days and the mood turns sour, they try to survive, lacking even the most basic comforts a human being can expect. Again, Lindholm never creates a false tragedy, a Hollywood-style emotional manipulation. Instead, he lets the scenario play through to its logical conclusion, involving the audience throughout the characters’ development.
Quietly, the impressive cinematography works to create beautiful contrasts between the ship and the offices in Copenhagen, while the sound is sparse but effective. All in all, A Hijacking is one of the most involving and well-written films to come out this year and is highly recommended to anyone looking for intelligent thrills.
Watch the trailer: