‘A Hijacking’ Movie Review – How It Should Be
Movies aren’t real (well, unless we’re talking about documentaries) and that’s kind of the point of them. Movies are supposed to be fiction with entertainment – both visually and narratively. A majority do the visual part really well but unfortunately sacrifice the narrative. I talk a lot about believability, or realness, of a movie, and this is the part that goes out the window first. A movie like Tobias Lindholm’s A Hijacking is not a great example of this because it treats the plot exactly like it was real life. The tension, then, becomes “real” and it truly becomes a suspenseful thriller.
The Danish film takes place in the Indian Ocean, where a cargo ship gets seized by a band of Somali pirates. One of the crew members, and one of the main characters, is a cook named Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk) who happens to be days away from going home to his wife and daughter. The pirates, obviously demanding money, use Mikkel and the crew as bargaining chips against the CEO, Peter (Søren Malling), of an already cash-strapped company.
Although Mikkel seems like the obvious “main” character, the movie balances his needs with the psychological back-and-forth chess game between Peter and the pirates. They’re led by an interpreter named Omar (Abdihakin Asgar).
A lot of psychological thrillers use confusion (or sometimes misdirection) to create the psychological feel. By confusing the audience and then clearing the fog during the climax, it makes it seem a lot more psychological. A Hijacking practically tells you exactly what they’re going to do (much like I’ve done), but I assure you the process ill still rope you in.
The process isn’t exactly straightforward, though. It’s hard to sympathize with the pirates, but it’s also infuriating to see the corporate end and their response. This makes it much less prototypical since there isn’t really a “good guy” and “bad guy.”
Also, while so many movies would opt to use the hostage situation as an excuse for intense action sequences and heroic missions, A Hijacking does almost the opposite. In fact, the actual takeover of the ship occurs completely off-camera. This is done for a reason, and it’s partially what makes it such an intense ride.
Lindholm then can create a real sense of urgency and danger – something that lacks in so many films (similar or not) – that really puts you on the edge of your seat. With a dying captain, a desperate crew, and a very patient group of terrorists, the waiting game is almost unbearable…in the best way possible.
Visually, the movie offsets the lack of action (again, a good thing in my opinion) by compensating with great cinematography. As with all hostage situations, it feels very claustrophobic. However, compared to the open-ended sea, this juxtaposition is seen both visually and with the character performances.
A Hijacking simultaneously feels like a short and long ride. For the audience, it’ll keep you engaged almost the whole time (making it seem quick) while dragging out the hostage process (making it feel long). American audiences have grown accustomed to high-speed action sequences and booming scores to create “thrillers.” However, the real way to make a thriller is to create real stakes. A Hijacking definitely shows you what is on the line in a well-written, well-performed, and visually-appealing narrative. To me, it couldn’t be much better.
A Hijacking released last year in most locations. However, in the United States, it is available starting this weekend.
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