"Day 1" is what the title card says. Not immediately. Not before we've met Mikkel, ship's cook, Peter, CEO of the shipping company that owns the MV Rozen. Not before we know Mikkel's going home early, catching a flight once they arrive in India. Not before we know that Peter is a negotiator par excellence, a man with thin glasses who runs a firm that moves millions of millions of tonnes of cargo. Not before we've seen the offices, and the sea. "Day 1" is what the title card says. It is not the last.

The original title is Kapringen, and if the film has a weakness it's that article - this not just an act, this is also the act - the ship is not the only thing diverted, the crew are not the only hostages. That's "if the film has a weakness", because at every other level it achieves tremendous success.

Copy picture

The location work is sterling - the scenes aboard are shot aboard, that is real rust, real wear, real sun shining on the Indian Ocean. That is a wardroom, a galley, an access-way beside a cargo bay. The scenes in Denmark are shot in the offices of an actual shipping company, from the briefing hall-cum-lecture theatre to the offices looking out over container-juggling fork-lifts. There are some excellent bits of set-dressing too, the printed photographs of the crew and the fax machine in the corner of the negotiating room, the Torquay United scarf pinned to the wall of the Captain's cabin, Mikkel's working kitchen. Also, the increasingly tatty ship, the increasingly desperate office, as ordinary efforts and maintenance and progress are diverted into the business of hijacking and its resolution.

Mikkel is played by Pilou Asbæk as an open and uncomplicated man, cheery in his work, a big smile and a big laugh. He's instantly likeable, and it's testament to the cast and script and direction that every character is established immediately and efficiently without feeling like cliché and with room to develop as the hijacking rumbles on. As Mikkel becomes more and more closed, Peter becomes less and less controlled - Søren Malling spends much of his screen time increasingly isolated, a paragon of corporate ruthlessness slowly unravelled by a slow duel over satellite phone.

On the other side is Omar, played by Abdihakin Asgar. It would reveal too much to discuss his motives, indeed, the film is never explicit, but as the pirates' negotiator he is at the centre of affairs and that is a place that is increasingly complicated. The cast is split between veterans of Scandinavian screen who will be familiar to audiences of BBC4 fare like Borgen and the various The Killings, and those in debut roles - Asgar as the hijackers' negotiator and Gary Porter as hijacking consultant Connor Julian are among the latter, Dar Salim as Peter's protege Lars among the former. The various supporting roles are all well-filled, from the increasingly desperate crew aboard the Rozen to the increasingly frustrated pirates and the increasingly frustrated board of Peter's firm.

The relentless documentary air is given especial power by the film's roots in truth - in 2007 the MV Rozen was taken by Somali Pirates after delivering UN Food Aid. This is not the story of that event, it's something inspired by it, indeed, just inspired. This is not Tobias Lindholm's directorial debut, he directed 2010's R which was also brilliant. He's possibly more familiar to international audiences as the writer of Borgen, but it's probably only a matter of time before Hollywood comes knocking. He's got a great eye for oppressive menace, and the weight of circumstance is everywhere around A Hijacking. It's got good sound work, tremendously supported by Hildur Guðnadóttir's original score.

Stark, beautifully observed, genuinely captivating, A Hijacking grabs its audience and does not let go. It knows what it wants and it gets it. There's no room for negotiation - go and see it.

Reviewed on: 14 Mar 2013
Share this with others on...
A Hijacking packshot
A brutal drama about a ship hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean and the subsequent struggles for survival and freedom.
Amazon link

Director: Tobias Lindholm

Writer: Tobias Lindholm

Starring: Pilou Asbæk, Søren Malling, Dar Salim

Year: 2012

Runtime: 99 minutes

Country: Denmark


Search database:


If you like this, try:

Buenos Aires, 1977
Headhunters