2012 Danish movie A Hijacking (or Kapringen, to give it it’s Danish title) tells the ‘inspired by real events’ story of a Danish cargo ship that is hijacked by Somali pirates. This is a film that’s been on my radar since seeing the excellent Paul Greengrass directed movie Captain Phillips. There are obvious similarities between the two that make it all-too tempting to draw direct comparisons, but there are enough differences to make each film enjoyable on their own, as well as being good companion pieces.
Where Captain Phillips focused largely on it’s title character and the emotional journey undertaken by him, A Hijacking looks closely at the effects on the loved ones of those crew held captive and the process of negotiation between the cargo ships owner and the pirates.
The characters given particularly high-billing are Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk), the cook aboard the cargo ship, and Peter (Søren Malling), a company CEO who voluntarily takes control of negotiations with pirates from his office in Denmark.
Both Asbæk and Malling are fantastic in their roles, both feeding wonderfully into the vision of writer and director Tobias Lindholm. Lindholm clearly wants to focus more on the nitty-gritty, human side of the tale than the bombast he could have opted for. The actual hijacking is dealt with in the blink of an eye, foregoing an early opportunity to ramp up the tension in favour of hitting the viewer with more of an emotional punch. This is Lindholm as storyteller, not showman and his movie is all the better for it.
Mikkel is the designated representative of the crew, both within the story and as a plot mechanism. He is the one we see in the cramped, sweaty squalor of the ship, desperate to see his wife and daughter again. Peter is our professional representative, the suited negotiator back on land. Both provide a great insight into the high emotional tension of proceedings. The film could not work if these roles were not so well cast. I should note, too, that the supporting cast all impress, but it is Asbæek and Malling that the story demands most from and from whom we get the most reward.
The claustrophobic setting of the cargo ship will immediately immerse the audience. In the opening half of the film, I never felt a real sense of peril, but that all changes in the second half as negotiations reach the crucial stages. It’s perfectly paced, raising alarm and concern at all the right junctures.
Those like me, who find this film because of the big budget Captain Phillips, with it’s Tom Hanks acting-masterclass, will surely find themselves pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Danish movie. Few comparisons should be made; they are stand-alone films and both are brilliant. A Hijacking will take you hostage for an hour and 40 minutes, and you’ll be glad it did.