Sunday, June 09, 2013

“A Hijacking” – Movie Review



This weekend, my movie class had a bonus screening of a new Danish thriller by Tobias Lindholm (writer of “The Killing” on the AMC television network) called “A Hijacking”.


When a cargo ship is hijacked by a gang of Somali Pirates, will the crew survive even if a ransom is paid?


Mikkel is the cook on The Rozen, a Danish cargo ship headed for Mumbai, and he’s getting a little itchy to return home to his wife and young daughter after a long time at sea.  Suddenly, in the midst of The Indian Ocean, the ship is overtaken by a group of Somali Pirates who hold the entire seven – man crew hostage and demand $15 million in ransom from the shipping company for which the crew work.    With the pirates’ delay in contacting the shipping company, the crew members are concerned that they may not go home for a long time – if ever. 

Peter, the CEO of the Copenhagen – based shipping company responsible for the Rozen, is immediately alerted to the fact that the ship has ceased communicating and has instead sounded an alarm, indicating they are in distress.  Once they are contacted by Omar, a translator – negotiator for the Somali Pirates, they realize that the Rozen’s crew have been taken hostage; Peter hires Connor, a security expert experienced in dealing with the pirates.  Connor recommends that they bring in a specialist with expertise in hostage negotiations, but Peter – known to be a shrewd negotiator himself – dismisses this idea and assumes responsibility for negotiating with Omar. 

The negotiations progress slowly as the two sides are far apart; with the shipping company gaining increasingly poor public relations in the media, its board of directors grows impatient with Peter when the crisis reaches the four month mark and informs him that if he has not resolved the conflict within the next month, they will bring in an outside negotiator to settle the matter.  With tensions aboard ship becoming increasingly strained and both the crew and pirates turning desperate once supplies run out, can an agreement be reached or will the hostages lives become further endangered?    


With excellent word of mouth based on critics’ feedback on Rotten Tomatoes, I was prepared for quite a movie going experience – and that’s what I got, but “A Hijacking” is far from a perfect film.  While coming in at well under two hours, the motion picture feels as though it is much longer.  Is this due to its pacing?  Perhaps so, at least in part.  But there’s definitely more to it than merely that.  The picture is not easy to watch due to the fact that the viewers very much feel the stress level of both sides – the hostages onboard the ship and the executives desperately trying to negotiate a deal as soon as possible.  The fact that the hostage situation drags out for over four months certainly does not help matters at all either.

But it may very well be that the movie is being criticized for the very thing that makes it so effective in the first place:  its screenplay.  “A Hijacking” is a well – crafted thriller that keeps tension at its highest possible level all throughout the film and that is perhaps why the experience of watching the film is so emotionally draining on its audience.  While the threat of violence is always pervasive, the motion picture is not replete with on-screen violence – perhaps the main difference between American filmmaking techniques versus those of The Danes.  Other great aspects that display the craftsmanship with which the screenplay was executed include the way the main characters were set up and developed throughout the story.  Foreshadowing is also used extensively and to maximum effect. 

Can “A Hijacking” find an audience here in The United States?  The movie alternates between English and Danish with subtitles, which may prove frustrating for some viewers.    Also, the ending, while realistic, may not be very satisfying to an American audience; therefore, while a well-made film, “A Hijacking” may encounter great difficulty reaching success in this country – which is quite unfortunate since it’s rather good.  For U.S. audiences with chronic Attention Deficit Disorder and craving plenty of unrelenting explosions, the subtlety of “A Hijacking” may be lost on many.   

A Hijacking (2012) on IMDb 7.0/101,689 votes


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