It’s hard to talk about A Hijacking without comparing it to Captain Phillips so, fuck it, here we go. The two cover similar content, both narratively – focusing on commercial ships hijacked by pirates – and thematically, with each film drawing implicit links between their events and the damage wrought by modern commercialism/capitalism.
Where Captain Phillips took an action-packed approach, ratcheting up the tension (perhaps too far), A Hijacking takes a restrained, realistic approach. It has the tenor of a documentary, with its vérité approach eschewing action to simply observe the experiences of two men – captured cook Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk) and the shipping company CEO (Søren Malling) in charge of negotiations with the pirates.
This low-key approach is both strength and weakness. The piracy ordeal lasts for months, and the sense of time passing, the oscillation between bone-deep boredom and nerve-wracking tension, is skilfully conveyed. The representation of that boredom might make for a less gripping film than Phillips, and one that drags at times, but it’s clearly an intentional choice. While neither Asbæk nor Malling produce a performance as impressive as Hanks or Abdi, they each succeed in capturing the shape of real men pushed to the limits of human endurance.