A Hijacking: Hard-hitting hostage drama

HijackingA Hijacking is 100 minutes of gruelling, gripping tension. It doesn’t seek to glamorise or Hollywoodise the very real threat of modern-day piracy to commercial shipping. Instead it starkly portrays the at times horrific possibilities when hostages are held long-term for ransom. It is not a barrel of laughs…

The action switches between a Danish cargo carrier which is captured by Somali pirates, and the shipping company which must negotiate for the safe return of the crew. All of the performances are excellent – but Søren Malling at the CEO of the company is especially stunning. Against the advice of a security consultant he takes responsibility for the negotiations and personally deals with the pirate’s representative… and over the weeks which stretch into months this confident, capable and assured man starts to quietly unravel. There are some shatteringly powerful scenes; especially when he has to inform the crew’s relatives of sudden events.

Likewise, the key character on the ship – its cook – puts in a pivotal performance. The plot explores how the captives and their captors at times reach towards an acknowledgement of shared humanity. But it also shies away from standard kidnap clichés, and presents some moments of frightening brutality.

The pirate negotiator (who may be far more than that) is another compelling character; well worth watching his frustration reach boiling point.

The filming is understated and almost invisible: events are presented in matter of fact fashion without ‘fake documentary’ camera-shake or any such gimmicks. A Hijacking doesn’t need them. The scenes in the operations room of the Danish company are especially atmospheric: a room with no windows; bare walls plastered with photos of the kidnapped crew; a stark whiteboard showing the kidnappers’ current demand. The action leaps to the cabin on board the ship where the captain, cook and first officer are imprisoned – with no ventilation or toilet access – and we’re invited to see the similarities between the two situations.

Look out also for the scene with the goats, which really doesn’t require any explanation to hammer home its sinister suggestion.

The English subtitling is well presented and didn’t disrupt the dramatic flow at any point.

A stunning if arduous example of superb film-making.
9/10

Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason

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