The cargo ship MV Rozen is heading for harbor when it is hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. Amongst the men on board are the ship's cook Mikkel and the engineer Jan, who along with the rest of the seamen are taken hostage in a cynical game of life and death. With the demand for a ransom of millions of dollars a psychological drama unfolds between the CEO of the shipping company and the Somali pirates.Written by
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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