By Somali pirates alone, there are around 150-160 attempted hijackings a year, that’s one every few days. About one in four of those are successful, at which point the pirates either hold the ship, cargo or crew hostage, or all three. Yes, even the ship too, those large commercial freighters don’t grow on trees, money will be paid if some pissants threaten to scuttle them. Now you’d think that this would be good territory for our Manly Movie genre to tread, or float, and it is. In a few weeks, Tom Hanks will appear in ‘Captain Phillips’, a thriller about a hijacked commercial freighter. Before then, though, comes ‘A Hijacking’, a smaller and more modest movie handling the same subject matter. If ‘Captain Phillips’ is significantly better, I’d be surprised.
This movie is, as you’d probably have guessed, about a boat that gets hijacked on the seas by Somali pirates. In this case, it’s actually a hostage thriller, with a smaller hint and subtext and commentary on disposable workers. The movie is about the breakdown of the crew and eventually the CEO of the shipping company, who must negotiate with unreasonable demands. It is a character-driven thriller, it takes it’s time to progress. Had it not, it would’ve failed, because the story is one about endurance and emotional ruin. This is represented well by a particular quote from the movie: “We can’t rush these people. Time is a Western thing. It means nothing to them.”. For us, as viewers, time means nothing in this movie either – it flies by. And that’s always a good thing, a good movie is always over before you know it. That alone is down to exceptional pacing and a totally engrossing atmosphere.
Further to that atmosphere is a class sense of realism. That’s down to a great combination of direction – which straddles the line of theatrical and docudrama, natural actors and the fact that it’s based on a true story. The acting in particular catches the attention straight away, that’s rare in a movie these days, where acting is so good that it is at once immersive. Not just the crew, but the scumbag interlopers. Pilou Asbæk, who plays the central character of Mikkel Hartmann, gives one of the stand out performances of the year. There is no bravado or machismo, that would’ve been ill placed. Instead it’s a portrayal of degradation, which applies to the rest of the cast as well, including the man shouldering the responsibility, back in Denmark, of negotiating. Although there is a Manly Movie explosion of rage from him when he’s had enough, finally when formality gets thrown out the window: “Don’t threaten my fucking men!”. You tell ’em, pal. Makes you wonder though, isn’t it time for a movie about the incident where Russian Spetsnaz slaughtered some of these fuckers?
A Hijacking is a well crafted little Rated-R sleeper. It had a severely limited theatrical run earlier this month, so if you hadn’t heard of it before, you have now.
REVIEW SCORE 8/10