Cap­tive to stark, con­vinc­ing ter­ror

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - David Strat­ton

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

Flight at­ten­dants ramp up the laughs in Pe­dro Al

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