Peter Pan isn’t the only person needing to be wary of pirates. Tobias Lindholm directs Kapringen (A Hijacking) (2012), which is about a crew aboard a Danish transport ship as they are hijacked by a group of rowdy, desperate Somali pirates. It is now up to the ship’s cook, a Somali translator, and the CEO to figure out a monetary compromise before the pirates’ frustrations descend into violence.
A Hijacking (2012) captures a different aspect of a ship siege. There are no shots fired. The film primarily focuses on the business aspect of negotiations. As an audience, we are introduced to the key figures of a hostage situation that would normally remain behind the scenes. The corporation’s CEO, Peter C. Ludvigsen (Søren Malling), is used to negotiating with millions of dollars on the line. It’s in his make-up. Emotions are left outside the negotiating room and his cool, calm demeanour is never breached. Now, given the opportunity, Peter takes on the task of the negotiating with the pirates even though outside Somali consultants highly recommend someone externally be responsible. It is Peter’s crew and, therefore, it is his responsibility.
The protagonist for the film is the cook, Mikkel Hartmann (Pilou Asbæk). Mikkel is the type of guy you’d want on your ship. He is easy-going, fun loving and wears his emotions on his sleeves. Whether it’s speaking to his wife and daughter over the phone or keeping a happy environment on board the ship, Mikkel’s spirit keeps the boat afloat.
As the film shifts from introducing the ship’s crew to the corporation’s board members, we see Peter go from a structured negotiation with Japanese customers to an utmost unstructured negotiation with the pirates. The film never shows a shot fired under the hijacking. In fact, there never was a hijacking, just a change in scenario for Peter’s negotiations.
A negotiator for the Somali pirates, Omar (Abdihakin Asgar), is the only pirate who speaks English and throughout the siege adamantly denies any wrongdoing and states he isn’t ‘one of them’. Omar is just there to do his job. He is the connection between the ship’s crew, which is mysteriously down to three members, and the boardroom. Just like the crew, he’s responsible for capturing, he too desperately wants to get home to his wife and kids.
Overall, the film makes you feel as if you are stuck on a ship — or in a boardroom — for days on end, hopelessly trying to reach an agreement. In part, this is due to the realistic conversations continuously occurring throughout the film. To portray the most realistic phone conversations, the director made the phone calls real-time with Peter in Denmark and Omar in Somalia. The sporadic conversations between the two with the phone’s static and awkward shouting are real conversations with actors trying to deliver their lines over one another. The effect worked.
At first, A Hijacking may not be the film you’ve expected when you hear about pirates and hostages. However, the minimalist approach and focus on the human aspect of negotiating makes it a delight.
103 mins. In Danish, Swedish, English, Japanese and Somali.