Sadly, most people haven’t heard of ‘A Hijacking’, and many who have read the synopsis and said “this is just ‘Captain Phillips’ with subtitles” and decided to skip it altogether. I have to admit, as much as I’m an avid foreign film advocate, I almost skipped it for the very same reason. ‘Captain Phillips’ was still fresh in my mind and the idea of watching a film that appeared to be a very similar narrative had me uninterested.
I’ve learned many times over to never judge a book by its cover, and here is yet another reason why that is just poor judgment.
First things first, this does carry a similar storyline as the aforementioned Oscar nominee. Concerning a Danish cargo ship as opposed to an American one (and not being a true story, at least not in the direct sense), ‘A Hijacking’ follows a different narrative than ‘Captain Phillips’ did. This really shouldn’t be about which film was better, because they were both very different. I will say that I appreciated Paul Greengrass’s direction more, for despite having a film that was almost an hour longer than Lindholm’s, his film felt tighter and more focused (and only spanned a few days, whereas ‘A Hijacking’ covers almost half a year). While I did prefer ‘Captain Phillips’ as a whole, they are different experiences altogether, and ‘A Hijacking’ is not without its fair share of merit.
Splitting its time between the hijacked ship and the Copenhagen authorities, ‘A Hijacking’ tries to cover a wider scope of circumstance than ‘Captain Phillips’ did, which was content with staying on target and following its two stars from scene to scene. Instead, we are given dire circumstances of the cargo ship’s quarters and the men trying to stay alive aboard as well as the stuffy and stress filled atmosphere inside buildings and office spaces as the higher ups attempt to resolve the issue without suffering too large a financial loss. While the selfish business side of things was hinted at in Greengrass’s film, it is exploited heavily here, and to devastating effect.
The cast really rises to the occasion and makes this film sink down in the themes presented. At the forefront is Pilou Asbaek and Soren Malling who play the chief protagonists on their end of the spectrum. Asbaek delivers a heart wrenching performance (such layers) as Mikkel, the chef aboard the hijacked ship who misses his wife and daughter. Malling portrays the conflicted Ludvigsen who is desperate to get his men home but is torn between business advisors who don’t want to play their hand too quickly.
For me, despite the brisk running time and shared vantage points, ‘A Hijacking’ isn’t as focused as I wanted it to be. Maybe the juggling of multiple characters played against it slightly, but it is odd for me to feel that a film an hour longer and concerning a much shorting time span could be tighter and more streamlined than this one, but it is true. Still, this is a harrowing look at the effects these situations have on those who endure them, and Asbaek’s tremendous performance is hard to shake. Just the way he allows the world around him to overtake him in those final frames (the gunshot, his stare, that ring, his eyes) is unforgettable.
For those on the fence about taking this one in, I strongly recommend that you do.
I give this a B+. It was very good and very effective, but lacked some of the intensity I craved in this situation.