Tobias Lindholm’s A Hijacking (Kapringen) – Review and Trailer

1four-stars4Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm‘s film “A Hijacking” is a sparse but intense film. Drawing from the tradition of cinéma vérité, it is the story of a the crew of a cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates and the CEO of the company commanding it.

I call the film sparse because the way it is shaped is basically blocks of small scenes stacked up on top of each other to create a wooden tower of a film, in which each block is a highly realistic scene compiling the experiences or events in the lives of the two main characters, the cook of the ship and the CEO of the company.

The development of the psychologies of these two characters, and their similarly sparse relationship with each other, limited basically to the cook begging the CEO over the phone and the CEO constantly worrying about the cook et all, is perhaps the primary focus of the film. We see them go from powerful, optimistic men to broken shells of their former selves. The long, painful process in which this happens is well-illustrated by how their behaviors steadily break down, and why – constant humiliation, threats of death, and over a month without fresh air on the part of the crew starts to wear down on them, and the constant, daily fear of being the cause of the deaths of his crew.

4The style of the film is primarily, although not strictly, long shots with strict utilization of over-the-shoulder camera – a favorite in the vérité tradition. It is suspenseful in a sick, intense way, and leaves one considering the human aspect of events that otherwise would only be read in the news.

None of the side characters are quite as interesting or developed as the main two, whom are acted magnificently, except perhaps the mysterious and cruel “translator”, Omar. For instance, the CEO’s partner seems a bit forced – the film establishes early on that he is in need of some help, and perhaps as a nod to the Hollywood ideal of character arcs (all characters must change!!! so says the Hollywood scriptwriter) he does little throughout the film except in the end comes up with a good idea. I will note that the scenes in which the Somalis and the crew members break their barriers and party and then go fishing were very satisfying and small glimpses of real humanity.

As a portrait, this film succeeds admirably. It is not a film that will allow you to access the depth of humanity, or of human nature, or so on. Rather, it’s a sketch of the psychological effects of an event on two of the main people involved – and a fine sketch it is. And, in that regard, it is a worthwhile note on the human being, as this sketch casts no judgement in any direction, but simply shows the effects that an act such as kidnapping for ransom can have on the psyches of two men. Certainly worth seeing.

A Hijacking opens in San Francisco, June 21st at Landmark Embarcadero Center, and on June 28th at Elmwood in Berkeley and Nickelodeon in Santa Cruz.

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