BIFF Film Review: A Hijacking (Kapringen)

   During A Hijacking, Tobias Lindholm's first solo foray behind the camera, a gang of Somali pirates join in a boisterous rendition of "Happy Birthday To You" as sung by their Danish hostages and, in this sequence, its not impossible to imagine that in different circumstances these two rowdy gangs could have been great friends. Alas, greed combined with the pursuit of money and status will forever form a wedge between them; something which forms the great tragedy in this tense, spellbinding masterclass in suspense cinema, a stinging critique on capitalist consumerism.

   A Hijacking tells a deceptively simple tale: As Somali's hold captive a commercial ship and it's crew, a team of negotiators on-land try and negotiate their release. Yet, for the boardroom full of CEOs and corporate types, rather than considering the lives of others at stake, a game of cat and mouse begins in which discussions quickly take the form of just another business deal - regardless of the fact that men's lives are at risk, the Copenhagen  businessmen discuss the ransom in the same dismissive way they would a big deal with a Japanese conglomerate. The rule of the day is to let the head rule and the heart to be negated. Whilst this approach may make fiscal sense, the business decisions of a few affect the lives of those who had previously worked for them. A refusal to pay up means the crew of the Rozen have to live in dehumanising conditions; flies circle their sweltering living quarters as all dignity is deprived.

   Lindstrom's film achieves the rare task of not only maintaining tension as the film progresses but continually ratcheting up the pressure. As the Danish businessmen, assisted by the outsourced Australian "negotiation expert" Connor Julian (a man for whom no problem can't be solved with flow-charts, jargon and a brash display of expensive watches and jewelry), attempt to low-ball the Somalians into taking a cut-price deal, the pirates' own sociopathic negotiator Omar counters with a series of passive-aggressive threats and mind games. During the to-ing and fro-ing, it seems that one side may unwittingly force the other into an action it may regret. All the while Mikkel (Johan Asbaek) and the ship's crew are forced to suffer; morale is quickly sapped as everything from food to daylight is deprived from the unwitting pawns.

   Like The Hunt, which was also penned by Lindstrom, A Hijacking manages to convincingly portray extreme human reactions when pushed to breaking point. Peter (Soren Malling), the company's CEO, gives a fantastic performance of a composed businessman even when its quite clear his psyche has begun to fray and unravel at an alarming rate - he's afraid that failing to maintain this facade will cause loss of face; something clearly more important to him than anything else. In a feature in which numbers and figures are more important than people, and impressions more important than the lives of others, A Hijacking exposes how capitalism can de-humanise people (as groups who are victims) and as individuals afraid to rebel against greed; as tense as the feature was during its running time, its this lasting message which makes me truly anxious.

* This film was shown as part of Bradford International Film Festival. You can follow the film on Twitter here .


  1. A Hijacking refrains from exploiting or judging the situation, which reminds us that all of the characters think their behavior is justified. Whether any of them is right is left to us to decide.

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  2. It was a rather predictable flick, but man oh man was there some epic action. I love a good Danish thriller!

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