VOD film review: A Hijacking
James R | On 26, Aug 2013
Director: Tobias Lindholm
Cast: Pilou Asbæk, Søren Malling, Dar Salim, Abdihakin Asgar
“Hey, do you want to watch a hijacking?” isn’t a phrase people tend to say when they’re looking for a fun evening’s entertainment. It’s quite understandable. Because that’s exactly what Tobias Lindholm’s film feels like: watching a hijacking. It’s gripping, horrible, shocking, sad. It’s great. You know, if you like watching hijackings.
And yet we don’t really see the hijacking take place at all. We see beforehand – unassuming ship’s cook Mikkel (Asbæk) pottering around the galley and calling his wife – and witness the aftermath – Mikkel struggling without food while his boss, Peter (Malling), tries to negotiate over the phone – but the actual event happens while we’re sat in the boardroom in Denmark.
It’s that kind of touch that gives Tobias Lindholm’s thriller its gut-churning realism. Shot with a minimum of fuss on handheld cameras, Lindholm lenses everything with a quiet, natural approach that suggests a fly-on-the-wall documentary rather than a piece of fiction.
Søren Malling’s straight-faced businessman is played with a cold ruthlessness, his crisp ironed shirts gradually getting soggier under the pressure. His taut telephone discussions, haggling over the worth of the crew with a strained politeness, become even more believable thanks to an Australian negotiator who joins in halfway through; a platitude-spouting consultant who wears a t-shirt, he offers no real help to anyone. He could have walked right in from your office next door.
But while anti-corporate comments could easily become the movie’s main message, A Hijacking focuses on the human cost throughout. On the ship, we see Pilou Asbæk’s resolve crumble into a pile of sweat, facial hair and his own urine. The environments and people are remarkably different, one a family guy in an apron, the other a suit-wearing partner, but the two men share that same atmosphere of claustrophobia and disempowerment. When their worlds collide in slow, seemingly-endless motion, A Hijacking is at its most unbearable. With no music in the background to dictate the narrative, everything is agonizingly unpredictable. A single click on a phone or a beat of silence can mean the difference between life and death. Lindholm’s secret is to build tension through this simplicity alone – the very opposite, you feel, of a Hollywood hostage flick.
One crucial shot sees someone leave this emotional prison in a moment of apparent victory, but Lindholm’s camera doesn’t follow; we linger behind the door until the company opens up for business again the next day. It’s a quietly agonising moment that, like the rest of the film, grabs holds of you and doesn’t let go. A Hijacking is perfectly executed – and utterly excruciating.