"I never wanted to look away on this one." - Bryan
"This is a bold film in the way the Lindholm withholds the big moments from the audience." - Jon
"A Hijacking was great at establishing only what we needed to know." - Phil
When I first started watching it, I though immediately of Captain Phillips, which is by all means a fantastic movie. But they movie couldn't be any different in its approach to the same subject matter. Unlike Captain Phillips, we don’t see the actual hijacking. We don’t see the rescue. The tension isn't created by what’s on screen, but rather what not on screen. (And director Tobias Lindbolm continued to masterfully create tension in the viewer based off of on-screen actions.)
We also have no sympathy for the pirates, which I think was an intentional choice. This movie was already nearly 2 hours, to humanize the pirates would have taken much longer. I loved the decision to not give them subtitles. We don’t need to know their motivations. We don't ned to feel sympathy for them in order to get this movie.
So really, I think, any comparison to Captain Phillips would be shallow. These are totally different movies about different things in different genres.
Anyway, back to this film. We have 2 main characters. talking with Blair, her thought is we’re seeing Omar and Peter play off of each other. I respectfully disagree. I see this as a Peter and Mikkel story. At first, I assumed it would be a statement on class. The rich CEO is a crack negotiator who respects only the bottom line. Mikkel is the sensitive worker who shows us success isn’t always dictated by power and money. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the movie doesn’t go this route.
Peter is the CEO. He’s good at what he does. He keeps control. The British consultant comes in and Peter wants to be the mouthpiece follows the Brit’s lead. He talks with Omar as coolly as he did the Japanese business men. But away from Omar, he talks about the men on the ship. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is after he thinks Mikkel might have been shot. He just gazes in the direction of Mikkel’s picture before walking away. I expected him to be distant and cold, but he’s warm and caring with the families. Sure, he has the right answers, but he’s sparing their feelings in the process. I was ready for a statement on class and I didn’t get it.
With Mikkel, I was expecting to see the sensitive, but resilient and warm survivor. Christ, when the fish scene happens, I feel happy for him. But that’s only a tiny peak. In reality, we have a man being completely emotionally beaten to death. Every happiness is taken away from him. His phone call with his wife. His cooking. His thinking the ordeal was over. Ever his warmth towards his daughter eventually. With Mikkel, I get something absolutely depressing and cold.
I thought we’d see Mikkel overcome the working man odds. I thought we’d see Peter ego get the best of him. Instead we saw a more realistic intersection of those two things. Here is where Scott Tinnerman comes in.
We see glimpses of the ending that are subtle as Lindbolm doesn’t want to hit you in the face with his message. Peter flies off the handle during a conversation with Omar and gets emotional. Looking at that scene alone, it seems like its concern for his men that is driving him. He won’t be threatened.
We next see this from Peter during the final negation. Following a whim suggestion from poor Lars, he makes a proposal that seems desperate. He just wants his men back. He wants this over. They’ve all been suffering, right?
No. Here’s where Lindbolm really nails the plot. Peter is only frustrated because he is not winning the negotiations. In the first scene, he’s angry because he receives no counter-offer. In the second scene, he wants the negotiations done because he’s just been given a time-limit. Even if it started about the men, the end negotiation was about Peter. Peter gets to play the hero. And poor Mikkel has to watch his captain get murdered for sticking up for him. Lindbolm gives this information to us, but I think it’s easy to miss that this is the commentary on class that we were expecting. I didn’t even put it all together until we have our last scenes with our two main characters. Mikkel is just crushed. He’s so incredibly depressed that he can’t even interact with his wife or daughter. And then Peter, seemingly distraught, gets in his expensive automobile and leaves the garage, making a right turn into whatever he feels like. Peter had a rough few months, but Mikkel’s life is ruined. This is a subtle, but profound statement on class. If you’re the boss, shit gets tough, but you still get to live a comfortable life. If you’re the cook, when shit gets tough, your life is forever changed.
I just didn’t expect all of that to come in the last ten minutes. All along Peter has viewed the crew as commodity to be traded. An opportunity to win another negotiation. I didn’t want that to be the case, but it seems in line with modern day labor. The company is number one and the workers are white noise. They’re data. You want to be happy or satisfied, but that was ripped away from us. The movie spends the entire time successfully getting us to sympathize and pulls out the rug as we just silently watch him get into that nice car and drive away. This is our Scott Tenorman moment. This is when you realize what you just watched.
Outside of our main character, there are some parallels. Omar and the Brit are equals. They both represent the bureaucracy of the event. They’re here to give us structure while letting Peter try to skimp his way through it while Mikkel actually suffered. Lars and Jan are both similar in that they provide support for Peter and Mikkel. They’re competent as numbers 2s, but they both really stepped up. Lars with the personal savings thing and Jan with that giant fish.
To go with the subtlety in story-telling, I loved the minimalism of the movie. The shots were generally very clean and simple. They just gave a simple picture. The scenes on the boat ranged from beautiful and open to constricted and closed. But the shots were so telling that we didn’t need a verbal explanation of what was going on. We just knew that they were suffering below deck. We knew they were being paraded. With Peter, the sterile shots gave us a glimpse into his utilitarian mind.
I also liked that Lindbolm kept us in close quarters. This entire movie felt cramped and claustrophobic. How much of a relief is whenever the sailors get to go outside. I felt cleaner just watching it.
I’m trying to think of a negative, but I’m struggling at the moment. I could see how someone might find the pacing a bit boring (Hart Man, this might not be your type of movie I’m guessing), but I thought it built the tension effectively. So even there I can’t knock it.
I originally gave this an A-, but I’m hovering over an A right now. Talk me up or down.