A Danish cargo ship, the MV Rozen, is in the Indian Ocean heading for Mumbai with a sparse collection of sailors aboard. Director Tobias Lindholm, whose script for the film The Hunt helped to garner a best actor nod for Mads Mikkelsen at the Cannes Film Festival last year, uses the ship’s cook Mikkel (Pilou Asbaek) to introduce the audience to the ship’s layout and crew. Unbeknownst to Mikkel, and rest of the crew, this trip will not be a routine voyage. They are about to endure the most harrowing ordeal at the hands of Somali pirates who will hijack their vessel.
Their only chance for survival comes not at sea, but in the boardroom. Peter Ludvigsen (Soren Malling), the CEO of the company that owns the ship, is a top negotiator in the world of business. However, Ludvigsen soon realizes that he knows nothing about dealing with terrorists. Bringing in specialist Connor Julian (Gary Skjoldmose Porter) to assist him, the pair must ensure that they take all the necessary steps to handle such a delicate situation. This includes working through each step of the process and not being rattled by either the psychological ploys used by the pirates, or the pressures family members of the crew are placing on the company.
A Hijacking is a film about a high stakes game of poker between a western corporation and a band of pirates that appears to have nothing to lose. As Julian remarked when Ludvisgen wanted the case resolved right away “we can’t rush these people. Time is a Western thing. It means nothing to them.” In Julian’s initial address to the company’s executive team he set the tone for the negotiations by explaining that it could take a week or it could take a year. This is not to say that Julian and Ludvisgen are not without compassion, in one scene we see Ludvisgen doing all he can to personally put the family members’ minds at ease during a briefing.
As you can imagine, the film is an intense psychological production. Lindholm does not provide subtitles for the Somali pirates when they speak to each other, or bark out orders to the crew at gunpoint, which heightens the tension. Over the course of A Hijacking, the hostages experience a multitude of emotions ranging from fear to disbelief to even the rare moments of playfulness with the pirates. They are overly thankful when they are granted small favours such as the ability to use a bathroom. The living conditions of the men continue to deteriorate as the days drag on. They are not allowed fresh air, a chance to shower, or to even the basics needed to maintain proper hygiene. At one point, food begins to run out and the pirates badger the crew to find more. The mentally taxing situation is ramped up in situations like when a crew member is offered the opportunity to call home, only to have the call immediately interrupted at gunpoint.
A Hijacking is well paced and full of offbeat plot devices. The actual boarding of the pirates is not shown, but heard when the executive team back in Copenhagen rebroadcast the event from the ship’s recordings. The character development in the screenplay actually works against the director in the third act. Lindholm has set up the two main characters so well throughout the piece that the choices Peter and Mikkel make, which ultimately help to drive the action, do not seem true to either character. Overall though, the material and story is presented very well and makes A Hijacking a film that I can recommend.