How much can a man take before he breaks? That’s the question posed and answered – in some style – by A Hijacking, a big screen offering from one of Denmark’s small-screen maestros.
Partly set on a tramp steamer in the Indian Ocean and partly in the gleaming European offices of the ship’s owners, A Hijacking is a tension-filled voyage helped on its way with some stellar performances by some familiar faces from the strong recent crop of Danish dramas.
Chugging across the Indian Ocean, the cargo ship MV Rozen is heading for harbour when it is boarded by Somali pirates. Among the ship’s multinational crew are cook Mikkel (Pilou Asbaek) and engineer Jan (Roland Moller) who, along with the captain, are herded into cramped quarters.
Back in Copenhagen the CEO of the shipping company (Soren Malling) enlists a professional negotiator (Gary Skjoldmose) and embarks on a three-month game of cat-and-mouse played out over thousands of miles between a sweltering, fear-filled ship and the cool, business-like corporate offices.
The pedigree of the cast and crew should attract interest from anyone who has found themselves gripped by Denmark’s televisual offerings in the last few years. Director Tobias Lindholm wrote several episodes of the acclaimed Borgen, which also starred Asbaek. Malling, meanwhile, was Sarah Lund‘s grumpy partner Jan Meyer in the first series of The Killing (and was in Wallander for good measure).
Lindholm keeps things tight, though, and proves that Danes can do short-form as well as longer episodic drama.
Filmed somewhat daringly in pirate country on a ship that had previously been hijacked, Lindholm also keeps it real in Denmark – Gary Skjoldmose isn’t an actor but a real-life hostage negotiator. Essentially playing himself, Skjoldmose is pretty good and his scenes with the obstinate CEO are taut (although it’s distracting that the CEO’s gopher is played by Ajay Naidu, a man who looks disconcertingly like Office Space‘s Samir Naga…Naga…not going to work here anymore).
Malling’s uptight executive suffers under the pressure of dealing with a situation over which he has no control, his impotence visibly diminishing him. Meanwhile on the high seas the fantastic Mikkel crumbles before our eyes, becoming a faint shadow of the smiling figure whose picture is pinned to the emergency room wall back in Denmark.
Their common ground is Omar (Abdihakin Asgar), the pirates’ translator and go-between and the man tasked with squeezing as much money out of the situation as possible. Skilled in the psychological arts, Omar is a tremendous brooding presence who finagles his way under the skin of cook and CEO alike.
Although A Hijacking is broadly based on the hijackings of Danish-owned freighters in 2007 and 2008, Lindholm is honest enough to say that it cannot be seen as the truth about what happens in such a situation because such a truth does not exist.
But in applying the sort of forensic Danish logic and attention to detail that would make Sarah Lund proud, Lindholm has found some truth about what can drive a man to the edge, what can hold him from it and what can push him over.
Don’t let this one sail without you.