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A Hijacking - Film Review

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by Richard Leathem (subscribe)
Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published August 19th 2013
Not your average hostage drama
Director: Tobias Lindholm (R)
Cast: Pilou Asbaek, Soren Malling, Dar Salim

Scandinavia has proven a rich source for crime thrillers in recent years. Stig Larson's Millineum began the international curiosity for Scandi crime, and since then a stream of films and TV series, including Headhunters, Easy Money, The Killing and The Bridge have ensured that popularity hasn't waned.

Hijacking Pilou Asbaek
Pilou Asbaek as Mikkel, a hostage to Somali pirates

Slow burning Danish thriller A Hijacking may not have the kind of commentary on political corruption that most of the aforementioned possess, but it still deals with high flying businessmen and the power they have over the lives of others.

Not so much concerned with the kind of kinetic energy you'd expect from a film with a title like A Hijacking, this is more of a psychological study of two men, one held captive on a cargo ship along with the other members of the ship's crew, and interestingly, the CEO of the company who owns the ship, who takes it upon himself to enter hostage negotiations with the Somali pirates holding his crew to ransom.

Soren Malling (from he Killing) as CEO Peter Ludvigsen

At the film's beginning CEO Peter Ludvigsen is portrayed as a gifted business negotiator. His success at bringing in highly advantageous deals lends him a confidence, a cool arrogance even. And so it's no surprise that when news of the hijacking hits, he insists on negotiating for the release of his employees. This despite discouragement from an international expert in the field who warns of the emotional toll it will take on him and the very different nature of negotiating for people's lives with terrorists.

One life in particular, that of the ship's cook, Mikkel, is the film's other narrative focus. Dragged in as a kind of go-between to represent the rest of the crew, we witness his helplessness and desperation as negotiations are extended over a period of months.

Hijacking Pilou Asbaek
Fellow hostages Jan (Roland Moller) and Mikkel (Pilou Asbaek)

Director Tobias Lindholm wrote the recent art house hit The Hunt, starring Meds Mikkelsen. A Hijacking shares that film's claustrophobic intensity while depicting potentially violent situations and also the pressure of being held to scrutiny by a close-knit community.

One curious feature is that the film, mostly in Danish, continues to have subtitles when the characters are speaking in English - even when the English terrorist expert is speaking English.

A Hijacking has received glowing reviews around the world and appeared in the 2013 Melbourne International Film Festival's Top 10 audience poll. Those expecting high-octane thrills will be disappointed, but as a psychological study of two contrasting men at opposite ends of a hostage crisis, there are more subtle rewards to enjoy.

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Why? A tense hostage drama
Where: At selected cinemas
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