Terse Danish thriller “A Hijacking” serves as counterpoint to the bombast of Captain Phillips

You may think that people who frequent independent movie theaters are a bunch of film snobs. After all, we do call them “arthouse,” not, “movie theater.”

You would be correct; we love great, artsy, film. But, sometimes, we long for a good old Hollywood blockbuster. For instance, right in the middle of the movie, “A Hijacking.”

“A Hijacking” (original Danish title “Kapringen”) is about a crew of men who work aboard a Danish ship, and are hijacked by a band of Somali pirates. It is tense, and dramatic, and manages to be near-thriller like in its’ pauses and “what’s around the next corner? Aieee!” suspense.

But, it’s definitely a drama – and a thriller. Danish cinematice style, which means lots of silence and all the gunshots are off-screen, and there’s so much reality: sweat, shaking hands, thread-bare underwear and t-shirts. Which makes the whole movie entirely more freaky.

Halfway through, on the edge of my seat, I found myself wondering: why didn’t the team of stern businessmen employed by the Danish company that owned the ship—who had been negotiating with the armed, young, semi-crazy pirates—why didn’t they just call in the Marines? Or the Navy Seals? Or the freakin’ Forsvarets Spesialkommando. Denmark has a Frogman Corps (Frømandskorpset). Surely somebody in the home office had a cousin who had a friend who…

But, nope. This is not a Hollywood blockbuster. This is a movie about bucks to prevent deaths, and the psychology of everyone involved, as everyone devolves. That includes the ultimate control freak, Peter C. Ludvigsen (the brilliant Søren Malling) the CEO of the company and self-appointed head negotiator.

To discuss cook Mikkel Hartmann (Pilou Asbæk, who gives an amazing performance) would risk spoilers. Let’s just say he’s an excellent fisherman.

There are no actual bangs-before-the-bucks are negotiated, no explosions as the good guys in uniform rush in to save the day. It’s just a bunch of working class men, held captive on their own ship, and a group of elite businessmen with their ethical and business sensibilities held hostage. While the pirates run amok and the families wait, at home, for the return of their loved ones.

I think I can speak for most of the audience when I say we too were held captive, waited anxiously, and nearly broke down— but our ordeal lasted only a few hours. And, at least we had popcorn.

S.J. Bradford

S.J. Bradford

S.J. bradford is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and covers U.S. news and world politics among other issues.