The biggest hijacking movie of 2013 was certainly 'Captain Phillips.' You can't beat Tom Hanks taking on a team of Somalian pirates. 'Phillips' was a tensely constructed film. Hanks gives a good performance. The supporting Somalian actors outshine just about everyone else. It was one of the best "Based on a True Story" movies to come out in 2013. Though, it wasn't the hijacking movie I liked the most. That award goes to the Danish film 'A Hijacking.'
Where 'Captain Phillips' is the quintessential Hollywood style true-to-life thriller, 'A Hijacking' prefers to keep things on a very personal level. Director and writer Tobias Lindholm crafts a slow burning thriller that is more about the art of survival than high-seas action.
Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk) is a happy guy. He's the ship's cook. He has a wife and daughter back home. Whenever a movie starts out with a guy like Mikkel, a guy who seemingly hasn't a care in the world, you know things are going to go really bad, really fast. And they do.
A group of Somalian pirates board Mikkel's boat. The crew is dreadfully outmatched. This isn't the constant struggle between pirates and crew as seen in 'Captain Phillips'. This is a Dutch ship and crew that is caught completely unaware. After the pirates board, the ships stops, and the company is called so a ransom can be issued.
This is where the movie gets really good. 'Captain Phillips' is a one-sided battle of good and evil. As well done as it is, there isn't much more to it than that. 'A Hijacking' features an entirely different, but equally important part, which is the negotiators on the other end. Mikkel is our main protagonist on the boat, but back on land that part belongs to company executive Peter C. Ludvigsen (Søren Malling).
Peter soon becomes the main focus of the movie. We're immensely worried about Mikkel and how the crew is doing, sure, but the way the hijacking takes over Peter's existence is a remarkable thing to watch. Here's an executive that you'd think would be completely removed for the day-to-day activities of those people under him. These types of characters are usually painted as uncaring bureaucrats that view employee forces as expendable. Peter is exactly the opposite.
The hijacking continues on for a lengthy time period as negotiations for ransom go back and forth. Peter barricades himself in a board room with a phone and a hostage negotiator. As the negotiations progress, and the pressure mounts he finds himself unraveling.
I went into 'A Hijacking' expecting to be confined with the crew and their captors for the entire film. The addition of Peter's part made it a much more rewarding experience. The changes his character goes through during the progression of the film are remarkable.
Lindholm has crafted a taut script without it feeling like too much gimmicky action was thrown in. This is a story about the characters, mainly Mikkel and Peter. It's a story about how everyday people react to extraordinary situations. How we deal with stress, loss, and the very real chance of failure. How hard it must be for someone to feel like they have lives in their hands. It truly is a noteworthy little film. It didn't get nearly as much hype as 'Captain Phillips' for blatantly obvious reasons, but that doesn't mean it's any less good.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Pressed onto a 50GB Blu-ray Disc, 'A Hijacking' is only a one-disc release. It comes in a standard keepcase and is labeled as being a Region A release.
Shot digitally, 'A Hijacking' looks rather great on Blu-ray. Given that Magnolia releases can be extremely hit or miss, this one hits more often than not. You aren't going to get the overly crisp look you might get with a high-budget Hollywood blockbuster. It does have a grittier look and feel to it. That said, detail is superb. Close-up detail looks rather splendid at times. Beads of sweat, patches of scraggly facial hair, and the accumulation of dirt and grime is easily seen.
The presentation does encounter a few minor hiccups. I noticed some banding in a few of the darker scenes, like when the prisoners are gathered together in the hull. Some minor noise here and there, but nothing major. Colors are grim, but they're supposed to be. For the most part contrast is nicely done. All in all, 'A Hijacking' is one of the better foreign films released by Magnolia on Blu-ray. These types of titles have a tendency to go haywire when presented in high-def. This one stands its ground.
The audio portion of the movie, which a Danish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, provides a realistic feel and adds to the film's mounting drama. Up, front and center, is the movie's dialogue. There's a lot of dialogue. It's a talk-heavy movie. The voices are presented clearly though. Even the scenes where the character are going back and forth on conference calls with less than amazing phone service, it's still easy to hear what they're saying, and match it up with the subtitles.
The ancillary action is quite well done also. The rear channels bristle with echoing voices in the ship's metal corridors. Gunshots reverberate. A variety of voices congeal around the main voices as havoc ensues. The main thing here is that it's a clear sounding audio mix. There isn't one part of it that makes you think adversely about it.
'A Hijacking' was a movie that caught me totally by surprise. It felt real. The characters were real. Their situation was real. It's a poignant and thrilling tale about how people are forced into uncomfortable situations. Impossible situations. And how they fight back. With strong audio and video this is one you'll want to seek out in case you haven't heard about it. I'd recommend it to anyone.