A Hijacking ★★★★

Here’s a film that stands in stark contrast to the type of film the majority of American screenwriters and studios would make. I have yet to see Captain Phillips, which I expect to be the Hollywood antithesis for this film which employs the same premise - a Somali pirate takeover of a shipping vessel - but told from the American perspective, I can imagine pretty accurately how that story would be told: with a focus on heroism, courage and perseverance against great odds. Plus helicopters and soldiers.

Tobias Lindholm’s film, on the other hand, takes the more modest, cerebral, and grounded approach. While both films are based on real events, this Danish film envelopes you with the sickening sense that this is how the events would realistically play out, away from any military advantage and geopolitical spotlight. We get a very real sense of how completely helpless the captive crew become, and the parallel storyline of a CEO desperate to resolve the hostile takeover reinforces how difficult the situation truly is.

In one thread we follow a shipping company's CEO, performed incredibly by Søren Malling, a man caught between a rock and a hard place. We get a sense of how this stern negotiator truly feels his decision to take on the role of hostage negotiator - against the advice of an expert advisor - is the best strategic move for both for his employees and his corporate higher-ups. But we also quickly understand how deep he is in over his head, as the situation gets messier and his personal turmoil is amplified exponentially.

In another thread, it’s a deep perspective on what it means to be a pirate prisoner in the modern world - merely a chip on the table in the middle of a high stakes poker game. While the crew is minimal, Pilou Asbæk’s portrayal of Mikkel, the ship’s cook and unfortunate negotiation middle-man, is a harrowing one. Mikkel’s struggle to survive and get back to the wife and child he loves is not one of courage and heroism, but one of determined submission - a completely different type of primal bravery. He recognizes the situation is beyond his grasp, and seeks simply to navigate through the takeover while minimizing the suffering for himself and his crew. But it’s messy, and despite his ability to maneuver himself to some degree, it’s impossible for his character to emerge from this drama unscathed.

Even in the end resolution, Lindholm is acutely aware of how messy these situations can be, and the devastating impact left behind to burden those involved is well presented. It’s a study in cause and effect, and the powerful consequences human decisions have. It’s a story with greed at its core, sure, but it’s more than that. It’s a story of three drastically disparate models of determination, filtered through the lens of three immensely different perspectives.