Movie review: 'A Hijacking' creates tension up close

Review • Danish drama takes on characters in crisis.
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Danish filmmaker Thomas Lindholm's drama "A Hijacking" is as immediate and as hard-hitting as a punch in the gut, sucking you into a tension-filled situation in the corporate offices and on the high seas.

The MV Rozen, a Danish-owned cargo ship en route to Mumbai, is hijacked by Somali pirates. The crew of seven is held hostage, and the ship's cook, Mikkel Hartmann (Pilou Asbaek), becomes the hijackers' conduit with the ship's corporate owners back in Copenhagen.

At the company HQ, CEO Peter Ludvigsen (Søren Malling) hires a negotiations expert (Garty Skjoldmose Porter) and starts talks with Omar (Abdihakin Asgar), who calls himself the Somalis' translator.

Peter is warned that he must act unemotionally and negotiate a ransom offer the same way he would handle a tough acquisition. But as days turn to weeks, he feels the responsibility of his crew's capture, guilt when meeting their families, and the added pressure from his board to end this crisis before news leaks out.

Meanwhile, on the Rozen, Mikkel and the ship's engineer, Jan (Roland Møller), are separated from most of the crew — except for the captain (Keith Pearson), who falls ill and needs medical treatment. Mikkel must contend with dwindling supplies, frayed nerves and the fact that Omar may not be as powerless as he claims.

Lindholm, whose credits include screenplay collaborations with Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (including "The Hunt," also opening this weekend), builds tension by keeping the focus tight on his two main characters. Using handheld cameras and minimal musical scoring, he lets nothing distract from the intense human drama of men being held at gunpoint, literal and figurative.

The results, thanks to Lindholm's intimate approach and the strong performances by Asbaek and Malling, make "A Hijacking" a riveting and realistic thriller.

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'A Hijacking'

Somali pirates take over a Danish freighter in this intimately tense thriller.

Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas.

When • Opens Friday, August 16.

Rating • R for language.

Running time • 103 minutes; in English and in Danish, with subtitles.