A Hijacking

Jul 26, 2013

A Hijacking

Grade: A-

Director: Tobias Lindholm (R)

Screenplay: Lindholm (The Hunt)

Cast: Pilou Asbaek, Soren Malling

Rating: R Runtime: 103 min.

by John DeSando “We can't rush these people. Time is a Western thing. It means nothing to them.” Connor Julian (Gary Porter)

If you want a reason to avoid a vacation that takes you to the Indian Ocean, then see A Highjacking, a cinema verite rendering of the harrowing experience that has Somali pirates holding a tanker and its 7 man crew hostage for ransom from a Danish company. The claustrophobia of Das Boot is there as well as the pressure at the company in Copenhagen and the homes of the crew.

Most of all, writer-director Tobias Lindholm has neatly juxtaposed Mikkel (Pilou Asbaek), the cook of the ship, a family-loving sailor, with Peter (Soren Malling), CEO of the company, to maximum emotional effect. The hand-held camera and long takes help heighten the heat.

The cool efficiency of Peter contrasts with the warm affection of Mikkel, who becomes the spokesman of the crew. His daughter’s birthday is imminent although it becomes apparent he’ll not be there to celebrate. The director accentuates Peter’s cool, emphasized by the lover who appears each day at the office and his interaction with his wife by the phone. After his initial success negotiating a Japanese company for a bargain price, Peter is set to have a similar success with the pirates—he refuses to let a professional negotiator take his place.

Over 140 days’ negotiation reveals his expertise is not as sharp when dealing with pirates who play only by their own rules. The Danes, at the center of the story even though the Somali’s rule the ship, are always at a disadvantage, thus heightening the suspense.

The close up camera work and the fetid circumstances serve as a constant reminder that this is a hell on water. The calm but stressful corporate offices reveal an icy hell of its own. The director does not spend wasteful time with grieving families, as most American disaster films do, but rather builds a believable scenario of almost impossible trial for the CEO and the crew; the pirates rarely are stressed, a scary circumstance as we realize they don’t need to be anyway. Just hope you never have this trip.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at Contact him at