The cargo ship MV Rozen is heading for harbor when it is hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. Amongst the men on board are the ship's cook Mikkel (Pilou AsbÁ¦k) and the engineer Jan (Roland Møller), who along with the rest of the seamen are taken hostage in a cynical game of life and death. With the demand for a ransom of millions of dollars a psychological drama unfolds between the CEO of the shipping company and the Somali pirates.
Tobias Lindholm crafts a tense psychological thriller with his sophomore effort A Hijacking, a gripping account of a Danish cargo ship held hostage. Cutting seamlessly from the increasingly complex relationship between pirates and prisoners on board to the negotiators in a Copenhagen boardroom, Lindholm presents a potent portrait of diminishing mental capacity and challenged masculinity within the genre framework of a high seas, high stakes game of cat and mouse. The dynamic of men in conflict in confined spaces is proving a rich thematic subject for Lindholm; there’s much about the alpha-male complexities of A Hijacking that's reminiscent of his 2010 debut feature, the hardcore prison drama, R.
a high seas, high stakes game of cat and mouse
The focus of the on-board drama is the ship’s cook, Mikkel (Pilou Asbaek), an affable, sensitive soul (when commended on his breakfast menu, he reveals his secret ingredient is 'love") who just wants off the ship so that he can be reunited with his wife and daughter. Lindholm establishes his everyman lead with economy and skill (a trait common to the film overall) before cutting to the Copenhagen office of the ship’s conglomerate owner. It’s here we meet the cool-as-ice CEO Peter (a compelling Soren Malling) as he negotiates and closes a multi-million dollar deal without breaking a sweat.
Peter is soon informed that the vessel has sent an alarm and that it is now in the hands of Somali pirates. Lindholm doesn’t indulge in any grand action sequences, keeping the illegal seizure and imprisonment of the crew entirely off-screen. When we next see Mikkel, he is crouching with a machine gun nozzle to his temple before being led away to a small room where he is kept with the ailing captain (Keith Pearson) and first mate Jan (Roland Moller) until ordered to cook for his captors.
Peter takes responsibility for his men and ship, demanding he act as the sole negotiator with the pirates. His point of contact is Omar (a smooth, chilling portrayal by Abdihikan Asgar); the exchanges between the steely CEO, the increasingly unstable chef and the terrorist leader are powerfully dramatic and achingly real. The finest achievement of the director’s self-penned script is arguably the intense intimacy he captures between the crew and their captors over the extended period of the hostage stand-off; a scene in which Omar allows Mikkel to speak with his family only to have the call turn into a negotiation ploy is incredibly tense and moving.
The authenticity Lindholm conveys extends to casting experienced terrorist negotiator Gary Sjoldmose Porter in that very role, and shooting aboard a vessel with an actual history of hijacking and violence.