Money talks – ★★★★
Denmark is where it’s at. Apparently. Following on from the success of The Hunt and A Royal Affair last year and the TV-land hits Borgen, The Bridge and The Killing comes a new film about a hijacking, conveniently titled A Hijacking.
The film is written and directed by Tobias Lindholm, a man who finds himself intertwined with many of those Danish cultural benchmarks as writer of The Hunt and Borgen. His latest film tells the story of a cargo ship (the MV Rozen) which is taken over by Somali pirates somewhere in the Indian Ocean. We’re then thrown into four months of back-and-forth negotiations between authorities in Copenhagen and the pirates. Lindholm’s script hones in on two men. The company’s CEO Peter (Søren Malling) who leads the phone negotiations and the ship’s cook Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk) who the pirates use as their designated “look they’re all still fine, chat to him” guy. Dual instances of claustrophobia take hold as Peter stops going home from the office as the negotiations take their toll on him almost as much as the crew members who struggle with terrible treatment and diminishing resources on the ship.
The company hire a designated hostage specialist (played by non-actor and real life hostage expert Gary Skjoldmose Porter) to sit in on phone-calls and try to work out a strategy to gauge their ransom offers. The pirates start off looking for $15million but the shipping company aren’t willing to meet that price and so it’s a case of eventually settling on a more realistic figure. The film provides a brilliant insight into income inequalities at play in the world, with the hostages happy to wait for months and months until a sum of money they feel they deserve is offered. Lindholm to his credit doesn’t pass any judgement on the practice and the company’s board can be held as accountable for treating the problem as an economic one rather than a personal one – emphasising the true meaning of the term “human resources”.
A Hijacking is all very matter of fact, moving along at a slow pace as it builds up the level of tension and frustration that would come with a scenario like this. It’s only 99 minutes long but feels quite a bit longer as you’re really put through the emotional ringer.
Whether it’s the prior knowledge of Lindholm’s television background playing tricks on us or not, you can’t shake the feeling that the film would play incredibly well as a late night drama on the small screen. The story just isn’t big or expansive enough to really warrant a trip to the cinema and could have been better told as a 3 or 4 part drama that could also have given us some insight into the motivations and background of the Somali posse.
But those minor niggles aside, it’s hard not to recommend the film. Script and performance combine to contribute to what feels like a realistic, non-judgemental portrayal of the challenges at play for both sides in this age-old problem of pirates. Aaaaarrrrrrr.
Denmark / Directed By: Tobias Lindholm / Written By: Tobias Lindholm / Starring: Pilou Asbæk, Søren Malling, Dar Salim / 99min / Drama / Release: 17 May 2013 (Ireland, UK)