In “A Hijacking,” his assured, intense second feature, Danish director Tobias Lindholm turns tedium and frustration into agonizing suspense.
Unfolding over a span of weary, stressful months, its action mainly confined to the below-deck parts of a cargo ship and a suite of sterile corporate offices in Denmark, the film is at once a probing psychological case study and an exploration of modern sea piracy.
The seizure of the ship, the Rozen, by Somali pirates jolts a company executive, Peter C. Ludvigsen (Soren Malling), out of his routine. A dapper, controlled boss, Peter relishes his ability to project steely confidence in times of crisis. While he hardly welcomes the taking of his ship, he is sure that he can deal with the situation, and the transition to crisis mode represents a change of pace from the deal-making and browbeating of an underling (Dar Salim) that usually occupies his time.
But meetings with an American consultant (Gary Skjoldmose Porter) and initial negotiations by satellite phone with Omar (Abdihakin Asgar), the pirates’ “translator,” suggest that a clean resolution is unlikely. Peter becomes something of a hostage in his workplace and succumbing to uncharacteristic displays of uncertainty.
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Lindholm leaves the geopolitics of the pirates’ actions in the background. With the exception of Omar, the hijackers are undifferentiated, almost spectral figures, whose language and behavior baffle and terrify the crew. Lindholm tells this story with an objectivity that sometimes feels cold but that also gives “A Hijacking” dramatic credibility. Its power accumulates slowly and subtly, with the threat of violence hanging in the air and the hope of a solution hovering just over the horizon.