A Hijacking Reviews
A Hijacking is about the crew of a Danish cargo ship being hijacked by Somali pirates who proceed to engage in escalating negotiations with authorities in Copenhagen. The plot of the film is a difficult one to analyze. On one hand nothing much happens in it. The synopsis I wrote is nearly all that occurs in the film. It has a subplot focusing on one specific crew member turmoil in not seeing his family while being hostaged, but contributes little when established the entire crew have family being worried about them. In hindsight giving one specific crew member some focus has no contribution in drawing the viewer doing nothing significant with it focused character. Another noticeable flaw is the lack of character development. We're not talking a specific character, but rather every single individual comes of as a caricature of human behavior. You won't find a character here worth sympathizing for.
On the other hand the plot perfectly enables it to become atmospheric. Making you uncertain, isolated, and most important of all hopeless. It dares not bother to bring into question how much is a man life worth, but the cost of doing so for everyone involve. Is the reward worth the endeavors and at the end has anyone accomplished anything? It provides the answer no matter how difficult it might be to accept. Its portrayal is distinctively real having no definite hero nor a definite villain. It avoids the easy route of painting a real life problem in black and white. The Somali pirates are as much of a victim in their hijacking as their hostages. Sacrificing and enduring just as much as the crew and their negotiators. Presenting them as people trying to survive as just much as everyone involved. Everything comes full circle in its final twenty minute making one very powerful commentary on violence, failed negotiation that prolong torture on all sides, and can a number actually determine the worth of a life.
Director Tobias Lindholm is a filmmaker if you're not familiar with should keep on your radar. Lindholm direction perfectly captures the bleakness of the mood, immerses the viewer, and evokes thoughts. Lindholm made a wise decision to not have subtitles in every single scene where the actors are speaking in their Somali native language. Unless you know the language this techniques work in putting us in the position of the crew. We could only guess what exactly the Somali pirates are saying. Actor Johan Philip Asbaek brings a performance that hinted ones delivered by Leonardo DiCaprio. We watch Johan Philip Asbaek decay in mind and body and can almost smell the sweat and fear on him. His resolve evaporates and he clings to any hope or kindness even though it comes from his tormentors. He gets across these emotions perfectly being the film standout performance. The only other standout is from Gary Skjoldmose-Porter whose acting prowess jars at times, but he improvises as the actors around him play their own parts in the crisis adds a certain depth and reality.
A Hijacking doesn't evolve much from its setup, but it absorb the viewer making it commentary hit hard. The direction is the most impressive feat accomplishing much more than one might expect from such a simple premise. "A Hijacking" is a film that will provide thought and leave a lasting impression after it ends.
"A Hijacking" is a riveting and harrowing movie that makes great use of its limited point of view in creating as natural a style as possible which makes events ring true. Outside of the obvious empathy for the sailors, things are not as clear cut as originally supposed, as relations between the sailors and their captors shift and blur, with Omar(Abdihakin Asgar), the pirates' negotiator, trying to exploit the high emotions to his advantage but Peter is having none of it. As the movie has a very neat way of introducing characters, Peter is quickly established as somebody you never want to play poker against. However, that doesn't mean he is completely soulless but which way his emotions go is clearly up for debate. In any case, I think he takes bad advice from Connor Julien(Gary Skjoldmose Porter), a security expert who while right about the goats is wrong about the pirates not having the same sense of time as they do which Omar would also disagree with, which leads Peter to low ball the pirates, leading one to wonder what exactly the price of a human life is.
Lindholm was responsible for writing duties on last year's excellent 'The Hunt', and here takes his sophomore directorial bow, proving himself something of a master of tense, yet realistic, drama. For a long time, Danish cinema was associated with the extravagances of film-makers like Lars Von Trier and Nicholas Winding Refn, but a new wave of gritty realism is sweeping the country's cinematic landscape. 'A Hijacking' is the first of two movies we'll see in 2013 dealing with this topic, as Paul Greengrass' Tom Hanks vehicle, 'Captain Phillips', is due later this summer. I'm not going out on much of a limb by theorizing Lindholm's film will be the more subtle of the two, as it's an underplayed, yet all the more tense for it, realistic piece of high drama.
It would have been all too easy to make the Peter character the villain and portray him as someone who cares more about the company coffers than the lives of his workers. Lindhom resists this, making Peter a reluctant hero. Malling is fantastic in the role, an actor with the ice cold exterior of a future Bond villain, and one I suspect we'll be seeing a lot more of, outside of his homeland. As the situation escalates from weeks to months, his calm exterior slowly and subtly breaks down; there are no Hollywood histrionics on display here. The entire ensemble are thoroughly convincing as real characters, dealing with a horrific scenario in their own unique ways.
'A Hijacking' is another quality piece of drama from a country punching above its weight.
The Good: Two tones - Director Tobias Lindholm does a fantastic job of balancing two tones in this film that work together to elevate the emotion in each scene. By cutting between the chaos of the highjacked Rozen to the calm, yet still tense, demeanor of the corporation, Lindholm is able to show two different sides of the event.
Peter and Mikkel - These two characters are the emotional center of the film, and Asbaek and Malling give terrific performances that encapsulate the different emotions going on in the situation. Asbaek goes through a myriad of emotions throughout the film, but what matters most is his portrayal of desperation through the film. Malling is incredibly charismatic as the powerful CEO who also cares deeply about his employees.
Omar - This character was the most fascinating character to me throughout the film. We don't know much about him, but what we do know is that he doesn't consider himself part of what the pirates are doing and may even be a captive as well. Lindholm gave us just enough to keep us interested, while keeping some details mysterious, so that we would stay interested throughout the length of the film.
A balance of hope and despair - Just like the negotiation process itself, Lindholm strikes a chord between hope and despair throughout the film. Anytime when it feels like all hope is lost, Lindholm and his crew of pirates give us a glimpse that everything will be alright. (SPOILERS) Even in the end when we think everything is working out, Lindholm throws a little despair in to mess with our heads.
The Bad: Not much to talk about here.
The Smugly (Movie snob nitpicks): Not much here either.
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.