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Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Hijacking ND/NF Review

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A Hijacking Review
2013, 99 minutes
Rated R for language

Written and directed by Tobias Lindholm, A Hijacking is a master class in suspense and direction.  Picked up by Magnolia Films for U.S. distribution (no release date has been set yet), A Hijacking is the story of a ship that gets hijacked by Somali pirates and the negotiation process that takes place to save the ship’s crew.

A Hijacking is not entirely true, but is based in reality.  Director Tobias Lindholm said that he doesn’t believe the truth exists about the Indian Ocean hijackings, but if his film feels like it is about the people involved in the hijackings, he has succeeded. And Lindholm has succeeded.  What distinguishes A Hijacking from most other new thrillers based in reality are its subtlety and lack of cinematic flourishes.  Unlike the 2012 Best Picture-winner Argo (a good film in its own right), another true-life thriller, A Hijacking’s conclusion doesn’t resort to clichéd suspense techniques or a thundering score.  Instead, Lindholm chooses to use little to no music and grounds the finale in realism.  That isn’t to say that there is no emotion tied to it, there most certainly is, but it is the power of the actors’ faces that made me feel for them rather than a loud score and impressive camerawork. 

Lindholm made a couple of other very smart directorial choices when making this film: he used simple frame composition and camerawork, and he chose to show the negotiation process.  I suspect other directors would have simply shown what transpired on the ship, but Lindholm knows that without sensationalism, the story of the hijacked ship alone would be an exercise in boredom.  Depicting the negotiation process shows the stress that negotiators are under, in this case, the CEO (Søren Malling) of the company who owns the ship, and raises the stakes substantially.

In his scripting of the film, Tobias Lindholm seemed to make sure that every situation was plausible and that every scene was included in the film to propel it forward.  This helps keep the running time down to a brisk 99 minutes and makes viewing this film compelling.

The acting in A Hijacking is superb.  As the ship’s cook and one of the film’s lead characters, Mikkel Hartmann, Johan Philip Asbæk gives a powerful performance.  He shows much of his emotion in his face.  Needless to say, his performance is not showy and is so frighteningly realistic that I forgot that I was watching an actor.  As Peter C. Ludvigsen, the CEO, Søren Malling gives an intense performance of a man trying to keep strong under extreme stress.  He, like Hartmann, does not give a showy performance, but rather a restrained one.

Overall, A Hijacking is a masterful film; smart, economical, yet complex.  I was very impressed by the care and craft that was put into this film and would highly recommend that everyone see it when it shows during the New Directors/New Films Festival at the Walter Reade Theater on Friday, March 22 at 6:15 pm, and at the MoMA Titus 1 at 8:30 pm on Sunday, March 24.  Tickets are on sale now.

-Joshua Handler

Review also featured in the Washington Square News:

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