A Danish cargo ship the MV Rozen is in the Indian Ocean heading for Mumbai with a sparse collection of sailors. The ships cook Mikkel (Pilou Asbaek) is on the ship to shore radio speaking to his wife and daughter explaining that he will be home a couple of days later than expected as he has to train the new cook that is coming on board. Director Tobias Lindholm who's last year's The Hunt garnered a best actor nod for Mads Mikkelsen at the Cannes Film Festival uses Mikkel to introduce the audience to the ship, its scale and her crew. The camera follows Mikkel as he makes breakfast and delivers coffee his mates on all three decks.
The scene shifts to company headquarters in Copenhagen where CEO Peter Ludvissen (Soren Mallin) leaves a board meeting then is brought in at the last minute to sway a difficult negotiation with the Japanese. He assists his colleague Lars Vestergaard (Dar Salim) with the negotiation bringing in the deal for under their target number. Soon after a message comes in that Somali pirates have hijacked the MV Rozen.
Writer/Director Tobias Lindholm switches the dialogue back and forth between Danish and English. Lindholm does not provide subtitles for the Somali pirates when they speak to each other or bark out orders to the crew at gunpoint, which heightens the tension and the fear amongst the crew of a potential violent act by their captors. The hijackers bring Mikkel to the captain's quarters that are now occupied by their translator Omar (Abdihakin Asgar). The abductors use Mikkel to call his bosses and make their first ransom demand.
Cinematographer Magnus Nordenhof Jonck uses a natural light especially coming through windows as a device to frame the action. Characters at windows, looking outward or fixing curtains is a constant theme in the piece. One excellent sequence early on in the film shows Mikkel leaning over the railing at sunset the sun is at distance over his right shoulder as it sets the sun continues to grow in the background to produce an eclipse like shadow.
A Hijacking is an intense psychological production. The hostages experience a multitude of emotions from the initial fear and disbelief of the event to periods where they are friendly and even playful with the pirates. They are overly thankful when they are granted small favours such as the ability to use a bathroom as apposed to going in the corner of the ships galley where they are housed. The mentally taxing situation is ramped up when a crew member is offered the opportunity to call home by the captors then it is immediately interrupted at gunpoint with the loved one still on the other end of the line. The living conditions of the men continue to deteriorate as the days drag on. They are not allowed fresh air, a chance to shower or to maintain proper hygiene. The captain is ill and his colleagues swat flies away from him. Food begins to run out and the pirates bagger the crew to find more to cook meals.
C.E.O Ludvisgen takes all the correct steps to handle the case. He is a top negotiator in business but realizes that he knows nothing of this world so he brings in a specialist Connor Julian (Skjoldmorse Porter). They work through each step of the process taking their time not being put off or rattled by the psychological ploys used by the pirates such as using the beaten crew and even family members of the men to put pressure on the company to pay.
Ludvisgen shows his skills in one particular scene when the crews loved ones come to the company offices. Lars is giving the briefing and Ludvisgen sensing more empathy is needed jumps in personally to put the family members minds at ease.
The movie is a high stakes game of poker between a western corporation and a band of pirates that appear to have nothing to loose. As Connor Julian remarked when Ludvisgen wanted the case resolved now: We can't rush these people. Time is a Western thing. It means nothing to them. In Julian's initial address to the company's executive team he set the tone for the negotiations explaining that this could take a week or it could take a year.
The film is well paced and full of offbeat plot devices. The actual pirate boarding is not shown but heard when the Executive team rebroadcast the event from the ship's recordings. The screenplay occasionally uses a day count as a point of reference to let the viewer know how much time had passed since last visiting the ship. Depth of character development actually works against the director in the third act. Lindholm has set up the two main characters so well throughout the piece that Peter and Mikkel make some choices to drive the action that does not seem true to either character. Overall the material and story are presented very well and A Hijacking is a film that I can recommend.
*** out of 4
A Hijacking( Kapringen) | Tobias Lindholm | Denmark| 2012 | 103 Minutes.
Languages: English, Danish, Swedish, Somali, Japanese
Video Service Corp. Presentation.
Tags: Cook, C.E.O. Somali Pirates, Cargo Ship, Negotiation, Hostage, Brinkmanship, Ransom, Prisoners, Stockholm Syndrome.