A Hijacking ★★★★

Nine Words or Less: CAPTAIN PHILLIPS = Fact-based heroism. THIS = World-economy parable. Equally enthralling.


Notes on my first impressions:

Before you finalize your 2013 top ten list, and before you rate Captain Phillips as highly as you mean to rate it... you should see this.

It's almost impossible, having just seen Captain Phillips, for me to write about A Hijacking without focusing on comparisons, since the subject matter is so similar.

I'm not interested in talking about whether one film is "better" than the other. They have different aims in mind, different methods of storytelling, and very different outcomes.

But the comparison may raise questions for moviegoers about what they value in a movie. Captain Phillips is based on a true story, of course. A Hijacking is fictional — although it may be argued that its broader scope is able to address real-world problems that Captain Phillips cannot even acknowledge with its narrower scope, thus giving the fictional story an opportunity to reflect "truth" in a fashion every bit as relevant and essential.

A Hijacking cuts back and forth between the hostages being persecuted by Somali pirates and the CEO of the company whose ship has been hijacked in the Indian Ocean. The farther the film goes, the more it's clear that he, too, is a hostage of sorts. What kind of dollar value do you put on lives in jeopardy like this? They're priceless lives, of course. But capitulating to the hijackers' demands may wreck a company and thus cast many more lives into desperate situations... while also throwing fuel on the hijackers' confidence and ambitions. It's an impossible situation, and the filmmakers wisely expose the madness of "pricing" human lives while also carefully refraining from turning the company men into monsters.

Captain Phillips is a better exhibition of contemporary action-thriller techniques, and it's an impressive portrait of (and tribute to) one man's intelligence, courage, and conscience. It also has a great performance from Tom Hanks and another very good one from Barkhad Abdi. It is, I'm inclined to say, a thriller first (and, as far as that goes, it's first-rate) ... and a contemplative endeavor second.

A Hijacking is, in my opinion, more thought-provoking, and gives us more to consider and discuss. It isn't tasked with paying tribute to anybody's heroics. It's more invested in tough ethical questions than it is in ratcheting up the tension. It also has a great performance by Michael Shannon lookalike Pilou Asbæk as a hostage, and another very good one from Søren Malling as the company CEO. It is, I'm inclined to say, a thriller and a contemplative endeavor in equal measure.

I'm not quite sure, at this point, how to put one above the other on a list.

But some movie mash-up artist out there has a promising opportunity in front of him.

Jeffrey liked this review