A Hijacking (Day 85)

A Hijacking -- PosterMy Opinion: 7.9 || Riveting — succeeds as a taut thriller, intense drama, and absorbing character study. Great insights into the mechanics of piracy and negotiation, as well as a harrowing view of  what it means to be a hostage.

TITLE: A Hijacking (Kapringen)
DIRECTOR: Tobias Lindholm
LANGUAGE: Danish | COUNTRY: Denmark
YEAR: 2012
PROFILE: Drama Thriller | 99 minutes | IMDb (7.1)

SYNOPSIS (Courtesy of IMDb): The crew of a Danish cargo ship is hijacked by Somali pirates who proceed to engage in escalating negotiations with authorities in Copenhagen.

Strengths: It’s an exceptionally well put together movie. Director Tobias Lindholm balances emotionally fraught scenes onboard the hijacked ship with tense moments in Copenhagen as the negotiating team searches for a successful strategy. He has a superb feel for pacing and camera movement, keeping things interesting inside of the cramped spaces without ever getting gimmicky. The different perspectives are shown with palpable realism, and although we never truly see things from the hijacker’s point of view, their negotiator emerges as a complex character in his own right.

Weaknesses: Once or twice, the film’s presumably low budget leads to some key moments being pushed off-screen — most conspicuously the hijacking itself. (After opening the movie onboard, with no hint of trouble, Lindholm switches to Copenhagen and reveals the hijacking after it’s happened. The presentation is skillful, like everything else, but the actual hijacking certainly seem worth dramatizing.) With that being said, the movie never feels low budget, a testament to Lindholm’s resourcefulness.

A Hijacking

Characters/Performances: The film’s three pivotal characters are all very well drawn and impeccably acted. Johan Philip Asbæk plays the captive cook Mikkel, a role that often requires him to act with his eyes and posture. Some of the film’s most realistic and effective scenes show Mikkel trying to communicate with the pirates and read their mercurial moods and motivations.

As the pirates’ negotiator, Omar — who wants everyone to know that he’s not a pirate himself — Abdihakin Asgar presents a fascinating character. Sometimes disarmingly humane, sometimes frighteningly aggressive, he constantly keeps the characters and audience off-balance.

In perhaps the most challenging role, Søren Malling plays the shipping company CEO, Peter, a dignified and scrupulous man who’s accustomed to out-negotiating everyone he meets (demonstrated in a very well scripted establishing scene). His genuine commitment to the safety of his crew is pitted against the strain (and financial pressure) of negotiating with people who don’t play by the rules. Peter’s struggles to retain control — of himself and the situation — are nuanced and fascinating.

Best Moment: Several strong moments, including one unexpected episode of levity between the pirates and hostages. And a searing, well-delivered shock at the end at the end of the film. But the finest scene comes during an intense, pivotal moment of negotiation when Peter’s composure cracks and everything seems to fall apart.

A Hijacking (Søren Malling)

File Under: hostages, the sea, piracy, negotiation, playing by the rules, endurance, survival