Director: Tobias Lindholm
Cast: Johan Philip Asbæk, Soren Malling, Dar Salim
110 minutes, Danish with subtitles
Less is more in Danish director Tobias Lindholm’s excruciating piracy drama. The tension of a desperate situation is drawn out like a knife in a masterful display of minimalist movie-making from the writer of The Hunt.
Whoever coined the phrase “less is more” may well have had in mind the kind of ice cold stomach churner that is A Hijacking. Delivering drama has never been so undramatic. When the stakes are this high there’s no time for melodrama, no room for shouty amateur dramatics, just an insight into modern-day piracy which is by turns elegant and excruciating.
The most distinguishing factor of Lindholm’s low-key hostage film is its reluctance to show too much. The film’s willingness to allow the audience’s imagination to work overtime is a refreshing alternative to films of a similar theme within the reality approximating crisis genre which insist on showing every nauseating detail, often when completely unnecessary.
A Hijacking focuses on the anxiously deliberated response of a shipping company when one of its cargo ships is hijacked by Somali pirates who take the crew hostage and ask for a ransom of $12 million dollars. Every furtive pause and carefully thought out question from corporate CEO Peter Ludvigsen (Soren Malling) could potentially cost the lives of those aboard the MV Rozen.
As the days drag relentlessly on, the pressure builds, irresistibly taking hold of Peter and his team of associates as they desperately try to bargain with the pirates while reassuring their families and keeping the company board members at bay as they gradually grow tired and impatient, threatening to pull the plug on the increasingly fragile negotiations.
Through an exhausting game of cat and mouse, fraught with a tension that builds on nothing more than a pregnant pause or a potentially deadly silence, A Hijacking is a rare example of cinema which is material appropriate in its unhurried delivery and devastating in its calm, collected consistency of tone.
There is a measured intensity in the performances of Soren Mallin as the emotionally resolute leader searching for a solution against the clock, and from Johan Phillip Asbaek as the hijacked ship’s cook whose wife and young daughter anxiously await his return.
Lindholm shifts perspective from the hijacked ship, as two of the men desperately attempt to form some kind of despairing bond with their captors in the hope it might save their skin, to the fractious atmosphere of a conference room in Denmark where strategies and ransom demands are systematically weighed up and debated.
All the while the growing urgency of the ransom negotiations, finely balanced and with no margin for error, gradually draws the plot towards its gripping climax.
A Hijacking is a tour de force. If art is “not about what you say but how you say it”, then Lindholm’s artistry feeds off and forms a part of his film’s message, a reflection on the importance of personal responsibility.
A telling scene towards the end of the film shows the company CEO agonizing over a call to the bereaved wife of an employee. The dignified restraint with which the film conveys the quiet humanity of these poignant moments invites the audience to feel the emotion the camera seems reticent to capture.
Immersed in a culture of current affairs fed cynicism, seemingly devoid of empathy, Lindholm’s A Hijacking crucially disregards popular notions of contemporary capitalist ideology and puts a premium on compassion, valuing the human cost of corporate accountability.
This is methodical film-making of substance and power, offering a slow burning plot which makes the audience earn every ounce of its protracted emotional payoff.
Ronan Wright blogs about films from Belfast at Filmplicity.