With intensity comes pressure, and with pressure comes fear. Tobias Lindholm’s A Hijacking has all of the above.
Lindholm’s excellent film is shot and edited as a docudrama and often reminded me of Paul Greengrass’ United 93 regarding how it treats its audience as flies on the wall. But where United 93 was based on a real life tragic event, A Hijacking’s story isn’t directly based on a true story but still feels sickeningly real.
What begins as a regular trip aboard the MV Rozen – a cargo ship traveling towards Mumbai – unexpectently becomes dangerous when it is suddenly taken over by a band of Somali pirates. Back in Copenhagen, the shipping company’s CEO Peter Lugvigsen (played by Søren Malling) begins to hear messages and requests from the pirates’ negotiator Omar (played by Abdihakin Asgar). The villains ask for millions of dollars as ransom for the crew and the Rozen. Peter, who is determined to captain his own company, takes on the role as the other negotiator while prominent employees standby overhearing in the boardroom.
As days pass (yes, days), the crew, the pirates, and Omar grow anxious. A hostage speaks for the nervous movie goers and comments on the drastic mood changes among the terrorists. A scene’s attitude can change within a snap of the fingers providing more nerve-wracking suspense to an already taut plot. The crew members try to meet the pirates on the same wavelength and make small talk. While the baddies welcome the smiles and handshakes, they can just as quickly point their rifles at the benign shipmates.
I lost count of how many times my heart leapt into my throat and my stomach sank during A Hijacking. It’s never a displeasure watching Lindholm’s film nor is it so uncomfortable it’s unwatchable. But, a great feeling of dread with a slight tease of hope always makes us uneasy and our eyes glued. Don’t be surprised if you find yourselves muttering “oh no” to yourselves as you watch the ship’s conditions worsen.
The acting is grade-A. Malling is terrific as someone with seniority and confidence that is slowly buckling under the tension. Especially, when anonymous gunshots are heard over the phone. Malling acts colder – and even too cold at times – towards those who are concerned about him and the progress of the negotiations. But, those quiet moments as he mulls over his decisions are chilling.
Another phenomenal performance is Pilou Asbæk as the ship’s cook, Mikkel. His kindness slowly deteriorates as he’s used occasionally as Omar’s verbal puppet. When Peter refuses to talk to Mikkel or threatens to hang up, disappointment and separation sets in even more as he heartbreakingly comes to realize he may never see his wife or daughter again.
A Hijacking surprisingly ends on a much bleaker note than the one we think is coming. But, the sombreness goes to show that Tobias Lindholm’s direction and his screenwriting isn’t afraid to throw last minute punches to shock the system. Like the captured crew, you can never predict where A Hijacking is going to travel to once it takes hold of you. It’s a riveting movie that I hope gets the respect and attention it deserves despite ingredients that some may be seasick about.