“A Hijacking” is the kind of film that requires no small amount of tension to be effective. Inspired by real events, it tells the story of the hijacking of the cargo ship MV Rozen by Somali pirates and the negotiations carried out between the ship’s owner, Peter Ludvigsen (Soren Malling), the pirates’ negotiator, Omar (Abdihakin Asgar), and the ship’s cook, Mikkel (Pilou Asbaek). Taking very little time to get into the plot, one might expect the level of tension to already be at a critical level, but at this point, we don’t yet feel like it’s a particularly tense situation. Whether or not this was because we never actually see the pirates take over the ship or because the filmmakers aren’t quite adept at making it so remained to be seen.
From here, the film mainly becomes a series of back and forth telephone calls and faxes between Peter, who has unfortunately opted to do the negotiating himself instead of hiring a professional, and Omar, a man who wants to make it clear that he is not one of the pirates, but rather a translator and negotiator. If writer/director Tobias Lindholm thought that these cold, emotionless exchanges would pull the viewer into the situation, unfortunately he was mistaken. There are a couple of tense moments in this regard, one in particular where we’re unsure if the pirates have murdered a member of the crew, but for the most part, these exchanges are nothing but discussions about money.
Another problem arises in that we never get the sense that the crew is in any real danger. When we first see the pirates on the ship, they have the crew huddled together and scared, but at this point, it would be surprising if they actually killed anyone with them being their only bargaining chips. As the negotiations drag on into months, the pirates become more relaxed with the crew and even start drinking with them, so any tension that had been present at the start has almost completely dissipated. In fact, the tensest moment doesn’t even come until the end of the film when a couple of characters’ nonsensical actions result in an unfortunate event.
You do have to hand it to the lead actors though, Malling and Asbaek do their best with the material in that they attempt to squeeze all the emotion they can from it. It’s just a shame they don’t have much to work with. This is a film where we should be on the edge of our seat as we wait to see what will happen next. The tension should be palpable enough to cut with a knife. There are lives hanging in the balance, but from the way the situation is presented in the film, you’d hardly think that anything is wrong. It’s based on true events, so it’s quite possible that it occurred just like this, but if that’s the case, then Lindholm made another error in following the events to the letter. If the story he was working with was this straightforward, then he should have taken at least a little dramatic license with the material. That’s not saying it needs more action, far from it, but again, it shouldn’t feel like the crew is safe from harm. The hijacking of this crew was an emotional and stressful experience for all involved. It deserved better treatment than the flat, by-the-numbers telling Lindholm delivers here.
The film is presented in a 1.78:1, 1080p transfer that is of excellent quality. Much of the film takes place aboard the dark, confined spaces of the ship, but the picture remains sharp and clear at all times. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is mostly of high quality as well. I realize they were probably trying to go for realism during the negotiations, but there were times when it was somewhat hard to hear what was being said on the other end of the phone. Other than that, it was top-notch.
Behind the Scenes Featurettes: Behind the Movie, The Director, Research, The Chief Engineer, and The Actors: As far as special features go, we are only given these five brief featurettes that run about two to three minutes each (14 minutes total). They feature very quick interviews with cast and crew that sadly don’t get into much detail about the making of the film. The most intriguing part of it involves an interview with the captain of the MV Rozen, who had actually gone through a piracy situation. Unfortunately, it too is very brief. Overall, there isn’t much to be learned from these featurettes.
What we end up with is a release that isn’t recommendable on either front (film or extras). The film is not really bad per se as it does offer a couple of emotional moments, mostly involving the families of the captive crew, in addition to the fine work from the cast, but the atmosphere is all wrong for a film of this nature. As I mentioned, you should be on the edge of your seat. Instead most will be laid back waiting for the tension to build with a more palpable threat. When all’s said and done, “A Hijacking” merely becomes a squandered opportunity.
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This review is based on a copy of the Blu-ray received for reviewing purposes.