Tense Danish thriller about a ship taken over by pirates in the Indian Ocean
Tobias Lindholm’s seafaring thriller explores contrasting claustrophobic environments through the eyes of two protagonists: Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk), the ship’s cook on board a hijacked freighter in the Indian Ocean, and freight firm CEO Peter (Soren Malling), trapped in the company HQ’s boardroom while he negotiates with the pirates’ maybe-victim, maybe-perpetrator translater, Omar (Abdihakin Asgar).
A fast-paced Hollywood hostage thriller, this is not. The negotiations drag on for weeks and months as Peter attempts to reach a compromise with Omar. This isn’t a parable of corporate greed – Peter is genuinely concerned about the welfare of his employees, but is advised by negotiation professional Connor (Gary Skjoldmose Porter) to haggle lest the pirates reject the first offer and ask for more.
This lengthy timespan is both a strength and weakness for the film. As the weeks pass, we see the effects of the sustained pressure on both Mikkel and Peter. Asbæk does a remarkable job of portraying Mikkel’s deterioration, passing through fear and desperation through shades of Stockholm Syndrome to final catatonic despair. Malling’s performance too is praiseworthy, although it is by necessity far more restrained: Peter has to keep calm both in the face of Omar’s aggressive bargaining and under scrutiny from the company board members.
Unfortunately, this drawn-out, unrelenting sense of fear exerts a toll on the audience as well as the protagonists. Lindholm prefers lingering over a scene to moving sharply onto the next set-up, and even moments of levity – such as Mikkel bonding with his captors while fishing – are dragged out. Lindholm could arguably be praised for succeeding in making the audience experience his characters, but a more stringent editor would have given the film a much keener sense of pace.
The Hijacking screened at Glasgow Film Festival. Limited release from Fri 10 May.