Tensions are high after a Danish freighter is captured and held for ransom by Somali pirates, leading to weeks of high-stakes negotiations — and an escalating potential for explosive violence — in Tobias Lindholm’s grittily authentic and suspenseful thriller.


A few days out of harbour in the Indian Ocean, the Danish freighter MV Rozen is captured by Somali pirates, who demand millions in ransom for the return of the ship and its crew. The head of the shipping company, Peter Ludvigsen (Søren Malling), immediately hires a professional negotiator to work with him-then disregards the expert’s advice and insists on dealing with the pirates himself. As the days and weeks drag on with no end in sight, it’s clear that the job is much more than Ludvigsen bargained for. Meanwhile, the crew, their families, and the pirates themselves — some of them just kids, some apparently coerced into participating in the hijack — struggle to deal with the ever-mounting pressure, uncertainty, and potential for violence.

An almost unbearably suspenseful procedural thriller, Tobias Lindholm’s A Hijacking is also a fascinating window onto the phenomenon of modern piracy — yet another by-product of the catastrophic economic disparity between impoverished countries and the “First World.” One of the most intriguing young filmmakers to emerge from Denmark in the last few years, Lindholm is a prime mover behind the celebrated Danish TV series Borgen (The Castle), and the co-writer of Thomas Vinterberg’s award-winning The Hunt (also screening at this year’s Festival). Hewing to the aesthetic he devised for his co-directed feature debut R (which dealt with life in a penitentiary), Lindholm and his collaborators make vivid use of actual locations and draw some of their cast from people who have been involved in similar situations. (Gary Skjoldmose Porter, who plays the negotiator, is a former hostage negotiator in real life.)

Far more than a gimmick, these elements of authenticity and Lindholm’s documentary style not only invest the proceedings with a lived-in, matter-of-fact air, but ratchet up the tension and create an all-too-believable atmosphere of claustrophobia and fear. Forgoing exploitation tactics and cheap thrills, Lindholm zooms in on the harsh reality of his scenario. When the situation does explode into violence, the impact is shattering.

Steve Gravestock