Captive to stark, convincing terror
PIRATE attacks on Danish-owned freighters in the Indian Ocean in 2007 and 2008 inspired Danish film A Hijacking. Imagine what Hollywood would have made of such a story! There would have been an intrepid hero, a sort of Bruce Willis or Harrison Ford character, and there would have been really nasty villains, led by a noted African-American actor. There would have been plenty of violence, suspense and, probably, some explosions. It would have been all terribly entertaining and unconvincing. Tobias Lindholm’s film is nothing like that at all.
Lindholm is so determined to avoid that kind of Hollywood cliche that he doesn’t even show the hijacking; one moment the crew members of the MV Rozen, a rather battered cargo ship, are going about their business and the next they’ve been taken over by armed Somalis who demand a ransom of $US15 million from the ship’s owners in Copenhagen. There are only three Western crew members; the rest are mostly of Asian origin, and only one of the heavily armed and very threatening Somalis, Omar (Abdihakin Asgar), speaks English.
During the following very taut 90 minutes or so, Lindholm focuses on two main characters. One is Mikkel (Pilou Asbaek), the ship’s cook, a family man who effectively takes control after the ship’s captain is sidelined by what appears to be a perforated ulcer. The other is Peter C. Ludvigsen (Soren Malling), the chief executive of the shipping company. Both actors, I’m assured, will be familiar to followers of recent Danish television drama.
The contrasting environments where these two men play out their deadly game couldn’t be more stark. The ship is small, accommodation is restricted and conditions soon become intolerable. At first Mikkel and the others are not allowed to use the toilet, and you can almost smell the squalid cabin in which they’re confined. On the other hand, Ludvigsen’s offices are modern and stark, with harsh lighting and an atmosphere of almost brutal efficiency. (We first meet Ludvigsen when, in a meeting, he succeeds in forcing through a very tough deal.)
Lindholm’s adherence to realism is extensive. He filmed on board a real cargo ship that had been hijacked previously, and he brought in a real-life pirate negotiator to advise on the production and then cast him, in effect, as himself. This negotiator insists Ludvigsen must drive the hardest bargain with the pirates; his first counter-offer is just $250,000, which is rejected out of hand. And so the negotiations drag on for days and months.
There’s no mention at all of involving the police or the military to free the hostages; that seems not to be an option. Instead, the negotiations continue amid increasing suspense as everyone concerned becomes more exhausted and more prone to make a mistake that could
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