The final day the Milwaukee Film Festival included the final screening of Fiction Festival Favorite "A Hijacking." Tobias Lindholm's heart-pumping thriller ran from 5:15-7 p.m. on Oct. 10 at the Fox-Bay Cinema for a sizable audience.
"A Hijacking" is a psychological thriller depicting the hijacking of the "MZ Rozen" by Somali pirates and the negotiations that followed. CEO Peter counters the pirates' demand for $15 million with an offer of $250,000, starting a psychological whirlwind for which the crew, most notably the ship's cook Mikkel Hartman, must pay.
The film is set up in such a way that the audience gets a glimpse into Mikkel's relationship with his new wife and daughter, followed by a series of updates on how long they've been hijacked. The progression from days to weeks to months between scenes works as a way of emphasizing the drawn out process of negotiations while still showing relatively little on the ship. This drawn out process of negotiation spans over 134 days, all while the crew waits aboard the ship with limited fresh air, food, or use of toilets. While Peter insists on taking on the negotiations himself (rather than use the recommended outside expert), Mikkel and the crew are left with the belief that their boss has abandoned them in his efforts to negotiate a price.
It's my company. It's my ship. It's my job to bring back my men.
The majority of the scenes are set in a boardroom with a bunch of businessmen discussing numbers in their suits and ties. In fact, the actual takeover of the Rozen isn't even shown in the film, but this in no way takes away from the tension. The constant shifting back and forth between the prideful CEO in the boardroom and the strained cook held captive keeps the audience on the edge of their seats as they join in Mikkel's frustration at Peter's firm focus on money and negotiations, while he wears away. The audience is linked immediately to Mikkel, and seeing him suffer while Peter and his associates talk financial strategy and budgets in a courtroom only makes the distinction clearer between the business side of a hijacking (namely, negotiating to an unknown voice on the telephone), to actually wondering whether you'll live through the experience.
A great deal of the tension created in "A Hijacking" can be attributed to Pilou Asbæk's performance as Mikkel. The film has many moments of quickly shifting energies, paces, and emotions, capturing the psychological distress felt during the experience. Pirate psychological manipulation requires Asbæk to go from overjoyed to terrified for his life to enraged in a matter of seconds, which he does masterfully. Of course without the incredible writing, these pulse-pounding scenes wouldn't happen in the first place, but Asbæk suits the role so perfectly, showing the kind of fear and vulnerability one can only imagine one would experience in a similar situation.
"A Hijacking" is a very realistic, gritty portrayal of a pirate takeover and with it comes some intense, graphic scenes of violence and trauma. These disturbing scenes of both psychological and physical trauma, while difficult to watch, are necessary to fully capture the essence of the divide between the ship and conference room during the hijacking.
"A Hijacking" is currently available on DVD on Netflix. For more information on "A Hijacking", please visit http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2216240/. For more information on The Milwaukee Film Festival, visit http://mkefilm.org.