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Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm is steadily making a name for himself;
daring filmmaker not afraid to take chances and it pays off in this
Kapringen (A Hijacking) is sort of the antithesis of a Hollywood hostage drama devoid of tired clichés and the predictable story lines we -- as an audience of generational film-goers -- have become too accustomed to.
It features an incredibly in-depth character study from the two main characters: a chef aboard the hijacked ship and the CEO of the shipping company remotely negotiating with the Somali pirates dealing with the incredible pressure and moral dilemmas of the situation. Also the supporting characters are depicted with great nuances such as sympathy and even humanity.
The plot is tight and flows nicely as does the tempo of the film. Cinematography beautifully emphasizes the realism and atmosphere of the film, and even the score is wonderfully understated yet fully appropriate.
One of the most suspenseful films of the year, no doubt, perhaps it embodies everything that Argo should have been about.
As a side note, the person who gave this a horrible review also gave The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2009) a perfect 10/10 (go ahead and click his other reviews if you don't believe me). Take from that what you will.
A highly recommendable film for great acting, directing and general storytelling. Bravo.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A fine realistic- almost documentary- examination of the hijacking of a Danish-owned freighter by Somali pirates. The two central characters are the ship's cook and the company's C.E.O., who negotiates the crew's release after over four months. There is an almost obsessive concern for realism- the scenes with the crew and the pirates were filmed on a real freighter- which had itself once been hijacked- off the coast of Somalia; the offices of a real shipping company were used; the hostage negotiator used as a consultant plays the part of a hostage negotiator. There are only two lapses from exact realism: the C.E.O. rejects the consultant's advice to recruit an outside negotiator. This makes for more drama at the expense of realism, but we have just seen him negotiate a deal that looked impossible with a Japanese company and- coolly impassive though he is- we can accept he is triumphant and thinks he is the best man for the job. Much of the film is a study of this man's moral education and moral courage as he learns to take others' advice, comes close to psychological collapse and finally triumphs, only to have his triumph destroyed by chance. Even then, he accepts his duty to take responsibility for what has happened, even if it is out of his control. The other lapse from realism is probably the result of the cinematic demand that something has to happen, even in a film where triumph consists of making sure nothing happens. The film takes place almost entirely in confined spaces- the company's offices, in the ship's cabins or cargo deck with occasional glimpses of the outside sea and the sky. There are a couple of moments where pirates and hostages almost meet as equals- when the crew are allowed on deck and catch a fish which inspires a feast for all of them- but for most of the film the pirates are potentially murderous 'others' who inspire only fear and hatred. Even their own English-speaking negotiator, for all his claims not to be a pirate like the others, reveals his own duplicity.
A Hijacking is a richly layered examination of the corporate mindset via Somali pirates from Tobias Lindholm. Shot on a real once-hijacked boat off the coast of Somalia, this is realistic, understated, nuanced and gripping filmmaking. It says as much about humanities will to survive as it does big business's disregard for it. Johan Philip Asbeck is incredible as the cook on the boat struggling to deal with the desperate and dumb Somalis, no doubt driven to piracy by the disease and starvation in their country. The reviewer that said this is "amateurishly written" is a child or a moron. Also check out Lindholm's previous film R- the bleakest of all bleak prison films. It's hard to find but worth the hunt (The Hunt- another good movie Lindholm helped write). Both are highly recommended.
I have just returned from seeing this at the cinema and I thought it was a really good film. I've seen most of the recent clutch of excellent Danish films and I would say this film was as good as any, perhaps with the one exception of The Hunt. I've noticed one reviewer objects to the lack of voice given to the hijackers, demonstrated by their speech not being subtitled. I completely disagree with this being an issue, the film is not about the hijackers, it is about the crew of the ship, the situation they find themselves in, and their relationship with the corporation that owns the ship and is responsible for the ransom that is demanded for the safety of the crew. The film seeks to portray the sense of terror that the crew are going through and arguably the best tool used in the film is the non-translated speech of the hijackers ... we have no idea what they are saying, why they can be calm and friendly one minute and then become furious seconds later for no apparent reason, waving their guns around ... this is exactly the way the crew would have experienced it. What would be the point of letting the audience know what the hijackers were saying if the crew don't understand, bearing in mind the film is trying to put us in their shoes? The CEO of the corporation comes across as stiff and unrealistic to begin with but we are shown at the start of the film that this is how he conducts negotiations, and as the hostage negotiation goes on, his stiff demeanour slowly slips away. The film expertly rackets up the tension, and is one of those films that makes you feel like you're experiencing what the characters are, rather than watching as an audience from afar. It is not a 10/10 classic but it is a very good film and well worth watching.
Unbearably tense and anti-aesthetic.
For his second directorial feature, Tobias Lindholm (co-writer of Jagten) delivers the kind of indifferent, matter-of-fact realism not experienced since the early days of Dogme 95. And because it cuts through all the fluff and artifice that has invaded commercial films without compromising momentum as a situationist thriller, one must concede that Kapringen has upped the ante on Danish rebellion against the Hollywood system.
The refusal to include actual scenes of the hijacking in a film specifically titled "A Hijacking" is no accident.
A cargo ship MV Rozen is hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. Among the eight men crew taken hostage is Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk), the ship's cook. A translator for the pirates issues demand for $15M in exchange for release. But back in Copenhagen, CEO of the shipping company Peter (Søren Malling) learns that gaining the upper hand demands patience. And so negotiations play out in silence like a sociopathic Fischer-Spassky game: cold, calculated, unyielding.
I can't think of any movie in which I have wanted so much to resist and cease watching, yet fail to do so because it has a quality so raw, unsympathetic and intuitive. In keeping with Lindholm's debut feature (a prison drama "R"); Kapringen is filmed on location, in chronological sequence and on board a sea freighter that was hijacked in the Indian ocean. Casting also features a real life hostage negotiator as the central figure and naturally, Somali pirates.
Arguably, mechanical reproduction of genuine conditions doesn't guarantee a convincing film but in this case, it does Kapringen looks so suitably stained with normality that one instantly recognizes the absence of gimmicky aesthetics. Unmanipulated (or to be PC about words, "seemingly so"), you resonate with the film's fabric of reality while searching for something more, and in the process, gain access into psychological domains that underpin both Peter and Mikkel.
It's not for nothing that Lindholm went through great lengths to replicate an uncomfortable, pressing scenario because the film offers reflection on an overlooked form of terrorism. Corporations may be showing it to employees as a resource on how to respond during such crises, but Kapringen's master stroke is the revelation of an impasse between the moral versus the practical. There is no payoff at the end of this film, it is one the most sophisticated vérités I have seen, the meta-argument leaves you deliberating, and the film takes off like a thinker on paradox.
A Danish cargo ship, MV Rozen, is hijacked by Somali pirates en route
to Mumbai. The pirates, led by Omar (Abdihakin Asgar), who claims only
to be the negotiator, take the crew of seven hostage and demand a
ransom of $19 million in return for the ship and their lives. After an
unnerving silence lasting days, Omar engages Peter Ludvigsen (Søren
Malling), CEO of the shipping company, in a psychological game of
negotiation that shreds the nerves of both Peter and the hostages.
Kapringen (A Hijacking) focuses on Peter, who shuns the offer of a trained negotiator, and three of his crew: Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk), the ship's cook; Jan (Roland Møller), an engineer; and the captain (Keith Pearson). With pressure from the board to resolve the situation, the burden of facing distraught family members and his own guilt at being unable to solve the crises with an instant payment, Peter struggles to gain the upper hand where his failure will mean the deaths of his men.
Tobias Lindholm, who co-wrote 2012's excellent Jagten (The Hunt) writes and directs this critically acclaimed film with a similar approach, refusing to spoon feed us with gimmickry or overstated episodes, instead preferring to leave us to join the dots, to imagine what is happening in the hours, days and weeks that Kapringen passes over. Lindholm understands that our fears are greatest when we cannot see or define them. As soon as the monster in a horror film is revealed, it ceases to be terrifying, and so it is in Kapringen. It's just that the monster isn't a vampire; it's isolation, the loss of basic human rights and the constant terror of impending execution.
As the weeks unfold, we make assumptions about the nature of the horror that occurs behind the locked cabin doors. For much of the time we don't know what is occurring as Lindholm exercises the same power as Omar. When he's revealed all he wants, he simply hangs up, cuts away, to leave us wondering. The only palpable evidence is Mikkel's increased shuffling and enhanced stoop as he cowers in the hijackers' presence and withdraws into himself.
Asbæk's performance is complete. We watch him decay in mind and body and can almost smell the sweat and fear on him. His resolve evaporates and he clings to any hope or kindness even though it comes from his tormentors.
Conversely, Asgar is cold as Omar, clearly the only character enjoying the experience. He's been here numerous times and has perfected the duel personas of good cop/bad cop offering kindness and threatening murder as if he, himself, is the victim. It is a chilling situation that feels too real to be entirely comfortable and does for sailing what Jaws did for swimming almost 40 years ago.
There is an oddness in the performance of Gary Skjoldmose-Porter as Conor Julian, the maritime hijack expert called in by the shipping company. With no other listings on IMDb but a job as Corporate Security Manager at Clipper Group, he appears to have been recruited to 'be' the adviser rather than cast to 'play' him. His (lack of?) acting prowess jars at times but the impression he gives of improvising his advice as the actors around him play their own parts in the crisis adds a certain depth and reality to Kapringen.
Malling (A Royal Affair and TV's The Killing and Borgen) gives a very restrained, but moving performance as a man who takes control through his arrogance but also needs to take responsibility so as not to feel impotent. Attacked from every side in subtle ways, he somehow manages to absorb the extreme stress and when he does shows signs of buckling, it is understanding and a relief to see that he is human.
Kapringen is a film with little action and barely a raised voice but the violence is unsettling and you'll find yourself wondering what on earth sane men and women are doing sailing around the world with such risks.
Kapringen is a film you'll struggle to find at the multiplexes so make the effort to seek it out at an arts cinema. Or wait for the DVD. Just see it.
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This hostage drama shows two different worlds: the despair of the crew
on a vessel that has been hijacked by Somalian pirates, and the concern
of the management of their shipping company in Copenhagen. The
juxtaposition of these two worlds, connected by a dramatic event, is
the strong cinematographic concept this film is built on.
The two worlds are very different. The crew on the ship is terrified by armed pirates they can't understand. They are locked up in a small room, where fear, heat, boredom and lack of food slowly drive them crazy. The managers in their design offices are dressed in tailored suits, wear cuff-links and drive limousines. Their fear is different, but far from negligible. The CEO chooses to personally negotiate with the pirates, and thus takes on the responsibility for the lives of his crew members. He is under great pressure from their families, from his board, and from the possibility that the press will report about the hijacking.
Director Lindholm focuses on two characters: the CEO of the shipping company and the cook on the vessel. The hijacking takes its toll on both of them, in different ways. The film switches from the clean offices in Copenhagen, where the CEO negotiates about the ransom, to the ship where the cook lives in continuous fear of being killed. The psychological approach of the film makes for great drama. Plus: this is a Danish film, so you can be sure the focus is on subtle human interaction, not on spectacular action scenes. The fact that the moment of the hijacking itself is not even shown, tells it all.
With the big budget film Captain Phillips arriving in the UK recently
it reminded me that I had this much smaller film sitting unwatched in
my queue. I don't know the details of Greengrass' film, but I presume
the basic principle is the same as this film, which sees Somali pirates
take over a Danish cargo ship and demand millions of US dollars for its
release. The drama in this case unfolds in the boardroom of the company
(focused on CEO Ludvigsen) and on the ship (focused on cook Mikkel).
The film puts an emphasis on realism in how it delivers the story to the viewer; conference calls between the CEO and the pirates are filmed as conference calls (complete with time lag and echo) and the expert in maritime security that the fictional company brings in is indeed not an actor but someone who does this for a living for a shipping company. It helps that this sense of realism is so deeply embedded in the techniques because it does make the film work very well in terms of tension. This isn't Under Siege where the cook takes on the hijackers, nor is it a film where the dramatic score does the heavy lifting if anything the film sits back and lets the people just be in this situation. As a result it is a more toned back film in regard to the delivery but it works well to make everything feel tense and unpredictable the calls are as gripping as the scenes of imminent personal danger on the ship.
The cast are a big part of this. At first I was concerned that I would not be able to get into the actors since so many were familiar faces to me from Forbrydelsen, Borgen, Game of Thrones and some other shows. As it was though I didn't struggle at all because everyone plays their characters so well that I forgot they were ever anyone else. Malling was the biggest jump for me as he is very different here than when I have seen him before, but he does it very well, letting the cracks show but never overdoing it for a specific scene. Asbaek has the toughest role as it is full of danger and emotion and he convinces throughout, sharing his frustration and fear with the viewer. Supporting roles are generally good with Salim, Moller and others doing good. I particularly liked Porter; occasionally he is a little clunky when working with the actors as a performance, but generally when he is in "the room" where he works in real life then he is a great presence and again really helps the sense of realism.
Kapringen maybe doesn't have the large budget or production aims of a bigger film, but the focus on realism in the making of the film pays off to produce a story that is tense and engaging throughout. Well worth a look.
"A Hijacking" features excellent performances from two protagonists,
delivered in an unflinching fashion that lays out the scenario, and
simply allows the raw emotions to transpire on their own. The timing of
the release on Blu-Ray coincides with the theatrical release of
"Captain Phillips," which stars Tom Hanks and directed by Paul
Greengrass. The films both tell the same story of cargo freighters
hijacked by Somali pirates who seek millions in ransom. Aside from the
similar subject matter however, the two films could not be any more
different. "Captain Phillips" is an appealing action thriller concerned
with presenting a satisfying, pulse-pounding conclusion for its
audience. "A Hijacking" is a tense, grounded-in-reality based drama
without the sense of comfort of a predetermined finale.
A Danish cargo ship named the "MV Rozen" is en route to Mumbai when Somali renegades gain control of the vessel and demand millions for the return of the ship's seven-man crew. Negotiations ensue between the corporate office and the pirates that follow the give-and-take of everyday business deals, with one important difference. In this case, the goods are human beings. Shot with hand-held cameras, the movie cross-cuts between two perspectives: the captured vessel's cook Mikkel Hartmann (Pilou Asbæk), and the maritime company's hands-on CEO Peter Ludvigsen (Søren Malling).
At the outset, the two characters share a common interest, but as the bartering drags on for months, the uncertainty of an outcome takes these two men in very different directions. Danish director/writer Tobias Lindholm perfectly balances the dual psyche of the captive Mikkel and corporate CEO Peter, two psychologically exhausted protagonists in remarkably different ways. A tense, slowly unwinding ticking-clock drama this may be, but the film is as much a character study, both the powerful and the subordinate, existing under extreme duress with life or death consequences attached to their decisions.
The film isn't a white knuckle ride and the pacing is slow at times, but this is one of the cases where that's exactly the point. Lindholm's account of a contemporary piracy situation doesn't offer the commercial appeal of "Captain Phillips," but it is nonetheless completely engaging and riveting material. There could have been several predictable avenues taken by Lindholm when telling this harrowing tale of survival and perseverance, but instead he charts into unexpected territory, and delivers real drama.
Who knew that Somali pirates would provide such rich subject matter for
filmmakers in 2013?
"A Hijacking" will invariably be compared to "Captain Phillips" if for no other reason than it came out in the same year and is about a cargo ship being hijacked by Somali pirates. But they're two very different movies about two different scenarios, so I'm not sure comparing them makes much sense. However, if absolutely forced to choose, I think I would pick "A Hijacking" as the film I enjoyed more.
"Captain Phillips" is all about the logistics of stalling to allow time for military intervention. It's at heart a straightforward action movie, with some emotional resonance late in the film to give it some ballast. "A Hijacking" is more about the emotional and psychological toll the situation takes on the film's key players, namely the cook, Mikkel, one of the hostages on board the ship, and Peter, the CEO of the company that owns the ship, on land. Peter is determined to handle the situation himself, despite warnings from the hostage negotiator not to get involved. It will get too messy and emotional, he's told, which ends up being true, and which takes a severe psychological toll on him. The same is true for the crew, Mikkel included, who must live as hostages for months never sure from one moment to the next whether or not they will survive.
The company's response to the hostage crisis is baffling to American viewers. Where in the world is the presence of any kind of military authority? Why on earth would Denmark sanction this kind of bargaining with pirates? It only encourages them to repeat their behavior. The film is comical in a morbid kind of way -- by the end, the CEO and the contact man for the pirates are exchanging faxes to negotiate an agreed upon ransom while the men on the boat rot. For all of the criticism it takes for its military bluster, it's hard to argue that the American way of dealing with such a situation isn't the better one.
A tense, finely-acted movie that, because of an incident that occurs very late in the film, may just take the wind out of you.
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