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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 06.20.13] Denmark thriller drama

The events that unfold throughout Tobias Lindholm's A Hijacking are the kind that feel ripped directly from the headlines: a ship en route to India is captured by pirates on the Indian Ocean. The crew is rounded up, sequestered and forced to wait while the pirates negotiate with the company for big cash. The events are familiar, it's the kind of story we've read about on numerous occasions, but what's interesting about Lindholm's film, which he also wrote, is that it gets not only at the fallout of the event but at the minutia of how it unfolds and the effect it has on everyone involved.

A Hijacking is a great thriller but one that avoids big dramatic sequences and relies almost exclusively on the characters. It cuts between life on board the ship where Mikkel the cook, a great performance from Pilou Asbaek who previously worked with Lindholm in R (review), has been selected as a sort of go between for the pirates and the company. Peter (Soren Malling), the company CEO, is going against the recommendation of the expert who suggests the company hire a third party to conduct the negotiation. Things can get intense and emotional and the last thing anyone wants is an outburst that could cause the pirates to react badly and perhaps even kill one of the hostages but Peter is adamant that as the company head, he's personally responsible for bringing his crew home safe and there's never any question that he's capable of the tremendous task before him. Malling plays the character as a cool and collected leader, a cold and calculated business man who internalizes his emotions, but it's clear in the way he carries himself and how he interacts with his partners, employees and family of the hostages that he's taking the situation to heart, that he genuinely cares for his employees and that there is a torrent of pent up emotion just beneath the surface. It's a far more subdued performance than Asbaek's who externalizes most of his emotions, but one that is just as, if not more, powerful.

What's fascinating about A Hijacking is that it doesn't simply focus on the interplay and back and forth between the negotiators but on the individuals involved on both sides. At head office we see how the weeks of negotiation stress affect not only Peter but those around him and how the once confident CEO begins to crack around the edges.

On board the ship, events unfold as if on another planet. The crew are scared for their lives but they find themselves in an uneasy interaction with the pirates and though on the surface they smile and laugh, eat, drink and even sing with them, there's never any doubt that they've forgotten the dire situation. As the weeks stretch to months, the pirates appear to become more easily irritable and though it's not necessarily the case, from the time they appear they seem quick to anger, the psychological turmoil stars to weigh heavy. There's a sense that the pirates have endless patience, that they're prepared to stay onboard for a year if that's what it takes to get what they want and that realization, along with everything else, tears deeply into the crew's psyche.

Lindholm has an exceptional ability to write complicated, emotional stories that are loaded with silence. He understands the power of silence and how it can convey emotion; he used silences to great effect in R and they're used to great effect here as well, sinking the audience deeper into the emotions of the story.

A Hijacking doesn't rely on grand moments, there are no attempts at dramatic rescues or escapes, no coups or attempts to overthrow the pirates; the heroics, like the rest of the movie, are even handed, intimate and powerful.

A Hijacking opens in NY and LA on June 21 and expanding to more cities in the coming weeks. Full details on the release schedule can be found at Magnolia Pictures.

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