Any frequent cinema goer or DVD purchaser knows that the film industry is on the brink of being destroyed by pirates. But apparently pirates operate at sea now, too, which is what A Hijacking sets out to explore.
The film is a realistic depiction of a Danish cargo ship which is hijacked by a gang of Somalian pirates. It tracks the progress of the crew on board as well as the company they work for in Denmark as they try to work out how much it’s worth paying for the safe return of their ship and employees.
Aboard the ship the focus is on the cook, Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk) and the pressure his imprisonment puts on his family at home. In Denmark the drama follows company CEO Peter (Søren Malling) as the stress of bargaining for the lives of his employees takes its toll. This provides an interesting juxtaposition for the way in which the affects the lives of people thousands of miles apart in very different situations, and also shows the gulf between CEOs and workers in a globalised world.
Well written and brilliantly executed, A Hijacking benefits enormously from the focussed direction of writer/director Tobias Lindholm The painstaking bargaining is gripping without using any of the usual cinematic tricks. There is very little music in the film, and the story rarely feels exaggerated for dramatic effect, relying on the reality of the drama over sudden plot twists. The rough, handheld style keeps the audience in the heart of the action, and contributes to the documentary feel. As tensions rise, A Hijacking perfectly captures the feelings of claustrophobia and desperation of being imprisoned in such dangerous circumstances.
The characters are believable, and benefit from the terrific performances of a very strong cast, especially Pilou Asbæk as Mikkel and Søren Malling, who shows remarkable restraint as Peter. The hijackers are given a human side, and are even shown bonding with their prisoners at certain points during the film.
A Hijacking shuns the loud, glossy action scenes we might have expected if it was made in Hollywood, preferring reality to spectacle and humanity to escapism. Its steady pace is gripping throughout and its lack of gratuitous silliness shows the respect it has for its audience. A compelling watch, A Hijacking is a fantastic piece of Danish cinema.