"A Hijacking" features excellent performances from two protagonists, delivered in an unflinching fashion that lays out the scenario, and simply allows the raw emotions to transpire on their own. The timing of the release on Blu-Ray coincides with the theatrical release of "Captain Phillips," which stars Tom Hanks and directed by Paul Greengrass. The films both tell the same story of cargo freighters hijacked by Somali pirates who seek millions in ransom. Aside from the similar subject matter however, the two films could not be any more different. "Captain Phillips" is an appealing action thriller concerned with presenting a satisfying, pulse-pounding conclusion for its audience. "A Hijacking" is a tense, grounded-in-reality based drama without the sense of comfort of a predetermined finale.
A Danish cargo ship named the "MV Rozen" is en route to Mumbai when Somali renegades gain control of the vessel and demand millions for the return of the ship's seven-man crew. Negotiations ensue between the corporate office and the pirates that follow the give-and-take of everyday business deals, with one important difference. In this case, the goods are human beings. Shot with handheld cameras, the movie cross-cuts between two perspectives: the captured vessel's cook Mikkel Hartmann (Pilou Asbæk), and the maritime company's hands-on CEO Peter Ludvigsen (Søren Malling).
At the outset, the two characters share a common interest, but as the bartering drags on for months, the uncertainty of an outcome takes these two men in very different directions. Danish director/writer Tobias Lindholm perfectly balances the dual psyche of the captive Mikkel and corporate CEO Peter, two psychologically exhausted protagonists in remarkably different ways. A tense, slowly unwinding ticking-clock drama this may be, but the film is as much a character study, both the powerful and the subordinate, existing under extreme duress with life or death consequences attached to their decisions.
The film isn't a white knuckle ride and the pacing is slow at times, but this is one of the cases where that's exactly the point. Lindholm's account of a contemporary piracy situation doesn't offer the commercial appeal of "Captain Phillips," but it is nonetheless completely engaging and riveting material. There could have been several predictable avenues taken by Lindholm when telling this harrowing tale of survival and perseverance, but instead he charts into unexpected territory, and delivers real drama.