Danish thriller 'A Hijacking' by Tobias Lindholm

Mikkel Hartmann (Pilou Asbæk)
"A Hijacking" (Kapringen, Denmark 2012) )  is a film about a Danish cargo ship that is hijacked by Somalian pirates in the middle of the Indian ocean, directed by Tobias Lindholm. On board are seven men who are held captive. Three of the men are allowed on deck: the cook, the captain and the mechanic.

Most of the film concerns the negotiations made by the owner of the ship, a Danish multimillion-dollar concern. The CEO Peter C. Ludvigsen  (Søren Malling) is a very rigid and controlled Danish man in his 50’s. We learn about his emotionless negotiation power in a deal selling with Japanese businessman at the beginning of the film. He’s a hard bargainer and maybe that makes sense when you are dealing with another corporate entity, but not with the lives of seven men. These men are onboard a ship with sordid and unsanitary conditions for almost 4 months.  The Somalian negotiations are conducted through an interpreter named Omar. All negotiations are done by telephone or fax machine.

The Danish firm calls in an Australian consultant who suggests that the negotiations be done with someone not personally involved with the firm. It’s hard to believe that Peter is more than remotely interested in his men, but more in parting with the companies hard earned money. He does not take the consultant’s advice that it will be hard for him emotionally to negotiate with the Somalians. But in two scenes he shows what he really has under wrap – when he yells at his wife who brings him clean shirts and tells her to go home, and when he gets stressed out once during the negotiations which elicits gunshot on the end of the line. 

The Danes first offer is 250 thousand dollars whittled down from a demand of 15 million dollars from the pirates. Even with the Japanese they at least kept themselves in the million dollar range to match their demands. The cool CEO and corporate headquarters with black and white office design contrasts with the sordid conditions of the boat at sea where it is hot with swarming flies and sweaty men held at gunpoint for most of their journey. 

The cook Mikkel Hartmann (Pilou Asbæk) is the heart of the film whose care for his daughter and wife, his crewmates and his captain are obvious. We get to see very little of the other men held captive, one who seems to be a young teenage boy.

The Somalians are portrayed as ruthless and trigger-happy. It is a difficult tightrope for the filmmaker to walk through with not only contrasts between the parent company and the cargo ship but between the pirates and the captives but the result is masterly. "A Hijacking" is extremely engaging and the suspense is relentless.
At Landmark Theatres Embarcadero Center, San Francisco

© 2013 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 06/26/13
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