Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Review: A Hijacking

Copyright: Nordisk Film Production
A cargo ship, traveling in the Indian ocean is unexpectedly hijacked by Somali pirates. After a few hours, the shipping company in Denmark  that owns the vessel gets a call from a man named Omar. He is representing the pirates and demands a large sum of money for the release of the crew. The company’s board of directors is unsure what to do, but one of them, a CEO named Peter is certain he can handle it. After all, in his mind, the hijacking is just another negotiation opportunity, and he sees himself as the master in that field.

Majority of movies (especially those action oriented) sees the tensions and the waiting as only the buildup towards a climatic resolution. Here, those things are the main focal point of the plot. The psychological conditions of all those involved are examined in minute detail, even though the prolonged negotiation takes place over several long weeks. In Denmark, cooked up in their small office, the negotiation team led by Peter plays a weird game of experimental behavioral science and regular business trading, slipping in and out the idea that they’re actually dealing with human lives.

In the Indian ocean, the crew, informally represented by their cook, Mikkel, does what ever they can to improve their chance, although they are actually the only ones who don’t have a real say in the matter. Their captors aren’t the usually faceless evildoers, even though the movie doesn’t try to romanticize them. They are like a force of nature, more similar to an ocean storm than to any kind of a terrorist organization. They don’t have a cause and don’t try to present any kind of justification to the crew about their presence on the boat - they just want to get paid. Peter has two missions - to bring the crew back alive, and at the same time pay the least amount of money for this to happen.

The cinematography of the movie is blunt and bleak - the cold, sterile office space of the company’s HQ building in the port district of Copenhagen, compared to the overheated, cramped and deteriorating cabins and cargo spaces of the boat, surrounded by the endless, beautiful ocean. The camera work that Tobias Lindholm, the movie’s director used looks like an improvised documentary. This is clearly seen in the scenes that depict small, insignificant interaction between the Somalis and Mikkel, and the enormous divide that separates them - from language, body structure and skin color, up to the power of life and death they wield over him.

The movie like A Hijacking ("Kapringen") demands a great cast, because the plot lies on their shoulders. Søren Malling as the egoistic Peter is simply brilliant, and his performance is both realistic and frightfully surreal in the moments when he seems bent on a new deal talking to Omar, while on the other end a gun muzzle is pressing on Mikkel’s head. Pilou Asbæk as Mikkel on the other hand gains traction as the movie progresses, and successfully depicts the way a regular person in a highly stressful environment starts to break down and then even gradually disappears as an individual.

The negotiator Connor, played by Gary Skjoldmose Porter, with his calm demeanor and heavily tattooed forearms is also really good as a security expert and works really well as an opposite voice to Peter’s hazardous business logic. His success at this role isn’t a big surprise, because Porter is a real security expert.

In the end, the movie shines in its conclusion, making it unique, random and believable, all at the same time. It doesn’t intend to explain the phenomenon of modern piracy in east Africa and its toll on all included, but instead simply presents it as realistically as possible.