Title: A Hijacking (Kapringen)
Director: Tobias Lindholm
Screenwriter: Tobias Lindholm
Cast: Pilou Asbaek, Søren Malling, Abdihakin Asgar,
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 5/22/13
Opens: June 21, 2013
If you like Santa Claus and Donald Duck and you want to keep believing that pirates look and act like Johnny Depp, don’t see “A Hijacking,” because everything in Tobias Lindholm’s riveting film looks so real that you might think it’s a high resolution videotape of a pirate hijacking. And the reality is not pretty. This drama about the capture on the high seas of a Danish ship is doubtless the most exciting one that has ever come down the pike about Somali pirates and is likely not to be bettered any time soon, perhaps not even by “Captain Phillips” which opens October 11th. If this were an American movie about one of our ships captured at sea (“Captain Phillips”?), the climax would be a massive shootout leaving all pirates sprawled on the deck dead and one of two hostages likewise out of circulation. If that’s your idea of such an adventure, you’re welcome to your taste. Though the Danes don’t go in for that kind of stuff, they don’t have to. “A Hijacking” is taut, compelling, and in the broad sense a spectacular political thriller.
Shooting on location on the Kenyan coast, principally from the port of Mombasa, director Lindholm takes us into the rough seas of the Indian Ocean where Mikkel Hartmann (Johan Philip Asbæek) serves as cook and principal liaison between his crew and the directors of the corporation that owns the shipping company. Peter C. Ludvigsen (Søren Malling) takes on the role of principal negotiator for the company establishing his credentials as a tough-as-nails bargainer when he gets a team of Japanese businessmen in Copenhagen to come down in price for merchandise from nineteen million dollars to fourteen point five. Peter is not given to emotions, wearing a suit, tie and cufflinks throughout the months that he spends on the phone with the pirates, principally Omar (Abdihakin Asgar) who is fluent in English and with the Somali dialect. He demands fifteen million US dollars, is countered by Peter with an offer of $250,000, and from there the weeks drag on as one side slowly comes down while the other moves some notches up. Peter’s mistake is in refusing advice to hire a person skilled at hostage negotiations as suggested by Connor (Gary Skjoldmose Porter), a British negotiator, saying that “this is my company” and that he is responsible for the ship called the Rozan and for the men aboard.
If you think this sort of give and take is like haggling over the price of a car, note that the patient Somalis are willing to wait for months to get what they consider a reasonable offer from the Danes, but during that time cook Mikkel becomes more worn down than most and seems particularly disturbed by being required to slaughter a goat. In one scene reminiscent of the singing of “A Long Way to Tipperary” in the movie “Das Boot,” the crew and the pirates seem to be having a ball one day singing “What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor,” the Somalis beating the rhythm in their own language while the crew appears to be catching Stockholm syndrome (an identification with the aims of the kidnappers).
One wonders where these pirates can spend any money they receive. What will they buy in Mogadishu or wherever else in that failed state they live? They appear to be in their profession for the excitement at least as much as for the money.
Magnus Nordenhof Jønck photographs the action, fulfilling the aims of writer- director Tobias Lindholm, whose previous work includes “R,” featuring Johan Philip Asbæk as a violent prisoner who finds friendship with an incarcerated Muslim. Unlike so many European films, the titles in “A Hijacking” are bold and easy to read, showing up when Danish is spoken and left out when Omar demands that Mikkel speak in English.
Rated R. 99 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – A-
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – A-