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Danish thriller in which the crew of a cargo ship is held hostage by Somali pirates. After hijacking the ship, the pirates demand a ransom be paid by the firm who owns the freighter. The head of the company enters into negotiations with them while seeking advice about how best to handle the situation, but when the ransom isn't met things becomes increasingly dangerous for those on board the vessel.
For more about A Hijacking and the A Hijacking Blu-ray release, see A Hijacking Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on October 14, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Johan Philip Asbæk, Søren Malling, Dar Salim
Director: Tobias Lindholm
» See full cast & crew
A Hijacking Blu-ray Review
Everything Is Negotiable
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, October 14, 2013
It's no surprise that Magnolia Home Entertainment is issuing Danish writer/director Tobias Lindholm's A Hijacking on home video to coincide with the theatrical release of Paul Greengrass' Captain Phillips. Both films tell the story of cargo freighters hijacked by Somali pirates who seek millions in ransom for the crew. Except for the basic subject matter, though, the two films could not be more dissimilar. Greengrass' film is an action thriller with a pulse-pounding conclusion, but A Hijacking is a tense drama with almost no action and without the satisfying release of a high-octane resolution. Lindholm wanted to examine the piracy phenomenon from an entirely different perspective. Where Captain Phillips vibrates with the adrenaline of constant peril, A Hijacking explores the exhaustion of limbo, as the Danish freighter crew can do nothing but wait—for months, as it turns out—while the company and the kidnappers play out the elaborate rituals of negotiation. Both sides have expert advisers who know their business and eventually steer their "clients" toward an acceptable result, but there is an irreducible element of chance that haunts each crew member as day follows hopeless day, with no sense of where they stand or whether a resolution is anywhere in sight. Without the backing of a major military apparatus, the Danish executives and their counselors have different options than did the U.S. in responding to the seizure of the Maersk Alabama. For all the cliches of European governments' supposed paternalism, in this instance it is the European example that, for better or worse, demonstrates the pure market-based approach, free of government interference.
Lindholm has structured his feature in two interlocking parts, shot separately in different locations, with the casts kept separate and largely uninformed about the details of the other locale's activities. The first location is the MV Rozen, a real Danish cargo ship that has actually been hijacked and whose captain and crew participated in the film as extras and advisors. The Rozen is making a cargo run in the Indian Ocean when it is boarded and seized. We witness the experience largely through the eyes of the ship's cook, Mikkel Hartmann (Pilou Asbæk), an ordinary working stiff with a wife, Maria (Amalie Ihle Alstrup), and a young daughter, Kamila (Amalie Vulff Andersen), who are at home waiting for their husband and father to return from work. The other location is the headquarters of Orion Holding, the Danish shipping company that owns the MV Rozen. The CEO is Peter C. Ludvigsen (Søren Malling), a self-possessed businessman and a dispassionate bargainer, as shown in a hard-nosed negotiation with a Japanese consortium over the purchase of a vessel. It is Ludvigsen who gets the call that his company's ship has been seized by Somali pirates. Lindholm does not show the takeover of the ship, because the logistics of hijacking don't interest him. He's concerned with what happens next. Ludvigsen and his corporate deputy, Lars Vestergaard (Dar Salim), organize a "situation" room and retain a consultant with expertise in Somali pirate negotiations, Connor Julian (Gary Skjoldmose Porter). (The mere fact that such a specialty exists speaks volumes.) Connor lays out exactly what will happen. They will be contacted with a ransom demand by an intermediary representing the pirates, but they must not accept the first demand. If they do, the pirates will simply demand more, and continue doing so until they feel they've extracted all they can get. The pirates expect haggling, and the company must meet those expectations. Connor also recommends, in the strongest terms, that Peter should not conduct the negotiations, because he is emotionally involved. An outsider should speak for the company. But Peter insists that it is his responsibility. Months later, as the situation drags on and Peter's energies remain consumed by this one problem, his board will complain that he is neglecting the company's other business. Just as Connor predicted, Peter receives a satellite call from Omar (Abdihakin Asgar), the representative who bristles at even the suggestion that he is one of the pirates. The negotiations between Peter and Omar are conducted in English, which is the lingua franca of modern business, and they have both an odd informality ("How are you, Peter?" "Fine. How are you, Omar?") and a bizarre abstraction, as if the parties were simply doing business ("I have talked to my board, and I have a new offer for you"). If one didn't know the circumstances, the conversations could easily be mistaken for a sales negotiation or the settlement of a lawsuit. Of course, there is the occasional call when Omar has one of the hostages brought to the phone with a gun to his head so that he can plead for his life. Through Mikkel, we experience the despair and frustration of the crew, who are told by Omar only that their bosses refuse to pay. They spend day after day cooped up in tiny spaces with inadequate water and sanitation, as supplies run low. At one point, Mikkel must help the pirates slaughter goats that they bring aboard for food. A break in the routine occurs when the pirates let Mikkel and several others on deck for fresh air, and they catch a large seafish, on which everyone feasts. For a brief moment, captors and hostages are united, but the moment passes quickly. Omar is as seasoned a negotiator as Peter, but his repertoire of tactics is different. They include allowing Mikkel to call home to his wife and daughter so that Maria Hartmann will add her tearful voice to the pressure on Peter. For his part, the talented businessman gradually begins to understand the wisdom of Connor Julian's advice to let an outsider do the talking, as the negotiations drag on and the strain takes its toll, not just on Peter's job performance, but also on his marriage and his general health. Only in the isolation of the situation room does this discussion continue to resemble a business transaction, and eventually even that facade begins to crack. When the deal is done, the facade collapses completely.
A Hijacking Blu-ray, Video Quality
A Hijacking was shot with the Arri Alexa by Magnus Nordenhof Jønck, who is also Lindholm's cinematographer on his hit TV show Borgen. The film was finished on a digital intermediate, which was presumably the source for Magnolia Home Entertainment's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray. Lindholm and Jønck have obviously opted for a documentary look here, with a dull though not overtly desaturated palette that hasn't been prettified in post-production. Detail is generally quite good, though not so much so that scenes appear to have been deliberately lit for the camera. To the extent that the image is occasionally overly bright or dark and underexposed, these issues appear to be source-based and not the fault of the Blu-ray. Unlike the U.K. edition released earlier this year by Arrow, Magnolia's Blu- ray has been mastered on a BD-50 with additional language options, and Magnolia has taken advantage of the extra space to provide an unusually high average bitrate of 36.00 Mbps. Although the digital source is undoubtedly the same, Magnolia's disc is the one to get, simply for the better compression ratio (assuming, of course, that one has the hardware to play region A discs).
A Hijacking Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Because A Hijacking is primarily a dialogue-driven drama, the focus of the Blu-ray's lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 remains in front, where conversations take place. Nevertheless, the surround array provides a clear distinction between the environments of the film's two main locales. The sea, as heard on deck and from different parts of the MV Rozen, is an ever-present complement to the action aboard ship, while the situation room in Denmark is its own private world, punctuated by telephones, mobile devices, note-taking and hushed voices. The mix is subtle but effective in conveying the tension at both ends of the standoff. The disc defaults to English subtitles that are limited to translating the Danish dialogue. If any of the foreign speakers' accents in English are a problem for the viewer, English SDH subtitles for the entire movie are available as an alternative.
A Hijacking Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The extras appear to be identical to those on the Arrow disc (except, of course, for the additional Magnolia trailers):
A Hijacking Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Lindholm's account of how a contemporary piracy situation was resolved is far less emotionally satisfying than Captain Phillips, and which is how it should be, because A Hijacking is also more realistic. As Lindholm notes in the extras, there are many people still being held hostage today. "I couldn't make a film about the truth of the hijackings in the Indian Ocean, because I don't believe that truth exists", Lindholm has said. "But I could make a film about seamen, pirates, CEOs and relatives. Because they do exist." With its graphic depiction of the human toll exacted from the crew and their families, A Hijacking squarely ask the question of whether dealing with each act of piracy as an individual business negotiation, however necessary it may be at the moment, is an appropriate strategy in the long term. It's not an easy question to answer, unless one is in a position to propose a viable alternative on a larger scale. Recommended.
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For the week of October 15th, Fox Home Entertainment is bringing The Heat to Blu-ray. Other titles include Magnolia's A Hijacking, Johnnie To's Drug War actioner, John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness and Georges Franju's Eyes without a Face, Orson Welles' The ...
• A Hijacking Blu-ray (Updated) - September 18, 2013
Magnolia Pictures will release on Blu-ray Tobias Lindholm's directorial debut Kapringen a.k.a A Hijacking (2012), starring Johan Philip Asbæk, Søren Malling, and Dar Salim. The release will be available for purchase online and in stores across the United States ...
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