You know what a hostage drama looks like to a movie studio: an excuse to give Liam Neeson a box of hand grenades and a license to kick unlimited kidnapper butt. The Danish piracy drama “A Hijacking” takes a gripping, realistic approach. It builds high-stakes tension with a blend of cinéma-vérité naturalism and nerve-shredding emotional verisimilitude.
Somali pirates on the Indian Ocean demand a stratospheric ransom to release the Danish tanker Rozen and its seven crewmen. The respected but egocentric CEO of the shipping company (Soren Malling, underplaying beautifully) ignores professional advice and negotiates with the pirates himself. As the crisis stretches over weeks and months, he becomes emotionally involved in a battle of wills that imperils his men and his own future at the company. His performance makes us wrestle with our own worst suspicions about how we would fare if we faced the choice of losing our standing in society or sacrificing our soul.
Viewers experiencing midsummer destruction fatigue will appreciate writer/director Tobias Lindholm’s rock-solid grasp of character (Pilou Asbæk is wrenching as the Rozen’s shaggy, terrified cook) and claustrophobic visuals. The men talking on phones in the cool, modern Copenhagen crisis room are trapped as surely as the hands on the overheated, undersupplied ship. This is high-order filmmaking, every shot measured, every scene paced just so, grueling suspense melded with meaningful human drama.
***½ out of four stars