Friday, March 20, 2015

A Hijacking Review

Odds are we aren't going to see a documentary that takes place on an actual ship during an actual hijacking by pirates, right? That seems like a long shot, to happen to be prepared to film in that moment and to be allowed to continue doing so throughout the ordeal. 

Assuming I am right and such a project won't be unveiled in the near future, you should find a way to see the Danish film A Hijacking, directed by Tobias Lindholm, a man who may not yet be a household name but seeing it attached to this got me personally excited because of my passionate admiration for the 2013 film The Hunt, which Lindholm co-wrote. At first glance of the premise you may think to yourself, oh, it's a foreign Captain Phillips (even though A Hijacking was actually released a year earlier than that film). I will be honest, I had the same thoughts, that I was going to witness an action packed intense Somali pirate film in the same vein as the Paul Greengrass work, but A Hijacking is a far different beast than that one.

What really drives the plot here is actually the negotiation between the pirates on board the ship and the company that owns it, which may not sound riveting but trust me, it is. Waiting for the phone to ring, listening to the frustration as the financial stakes offered are vastly different than what is demanded while knowing that lives are on the line, and trying to see a situation like that from multiple points of view. Surprisingly, it is literally edge of your seat cinema as I found myself scooting forward and leaning in, as if I was waiting for life changing news myself.

The reason this film works so well is because of the writing, and I could feel the maturity and discipline of the dialogue and the pacing. While vastly different films in terms of plot and setting, the sensibilities of The Hunt are evident throughout A Hijacking, allowing a natural realism to seep deep into your soul rather than attacking the audience with phony feeling and poorly executed tropes. Everything about this film felt real and because of that, I literally felt a bit shook up and all I could say as the credits rolled was "Wow."

Imagine you are one of the hostages, your life hanging in the balance each day. Not knowing when you can return home and see your loved ones. Your boss says he will do everything he can to ensure your safety, yet you remain in danger for months.

Imagine you are the spouse of a hostage, not knowing if you will ever see the love of your life again. Through your tears you demand answers, as there is no price too high if it means bringing them home. All you hear is the corporate answer, the fact that they can't discuss specifics but rest assured, they are doing everything they can to ensure their safety, to bring them home.

Imagine you are the CEO of the company and your ship is hijacked. The lives of your crew members are in your hands, but you still have corporate interests to take into consideration. Inevitably a ransom will be paid, but for months you play the game to make the number get smaller and smaller, and with each low-ball offer that incites anger on the other end of the phone, you must sit and wonder if anyone has died as a result. With each passing day you must continue to look a spouse in their tear filled eyes and tell them you are doing your best to bring everyone back safe, but can you sleep at night knowing your actions could mean they never come home again?

A Hijacking is crafted so expertly that I was able to see the film from all of those points of view at once. What separates the very good film from the truly great one are the seemingly minor details, a filmmaker who knows when to let a scene breathe and allow the emotions to linger in the air for an extra second or two rather than cut away to something new. 

A Hijacking is truly great.



  1. I gave it 4 out of 5. Very good, but some of those moments where you said he let the scene breath seemed a bit dragged out. But that is my one minor complaint for a very good film. Seeing the conditions of the hostages over the long time of the negotiations was unsettling.

    1. It's funny how that works, that we both can see the same thing but for one it is a flaw and the other it is a positive.

      Glad you enjoyed it though Nathan.