Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kiss the fish! With A HIJACKING, Tobias Lindholm keeps us uneasy prisoners at sea

Oy -- It's the Stockholm Syndrome in spades! A HIJACKING, the new film from Tobias Lindholm, places us aboard a soon-to-be hijacked Danish freighter (a small one, with a small crew, too). When we're not with the hijacked ship, we're back in the board room with the CEO (or whatever the Danish equivalent is called) trying to arrange the release of the ship and crew -- but not, of course, for the ransom requested by the kidnappers. Oh, no: First we've got to play Let's Make a Deal. If you absolutely love the negotiating process -- or have ever wanted to know what the behind-the-scenes business of hijack negotiations might be -- honey, this is the movie for you.

I don't doubt for a minute that A Hijacking might be very true-to-life, from both the viewpoint of the captives and those trying to negotiate their release, but, fuck, this is one tiresome, boring movie. Mr. Lindholm, shown at left, allows us to learn almost nothing about the pirates themselves, except what they want their captives to know. And while this is realistic, I'm sure, it deprives the movie of an entire and huge layer of plot and characterization possibilities. Although the film mimics the documentary style, it is not a doc, it's a narrative and thus, to my mind, carries a certain responsibility to, if not entertain us, then give us a lot of interesting detail. The detail here mostly sucks: It's prosaic in the extreme. Trust me, with a couple of exceptions -- that Kiss the fish! scene mentioned in my headline is one of these -- you could write most of this screenplay yourself and come pretty damn close to the level than Lindholm achieves.

This is one of those movies divided into sections separated by title headings that clue us in to which "Day" we have reached. I noticed Day 119 and Day 127, out of maybe another eight or ten "days." So what? These all seem utterly arbitrary and tell us nothing except that, yes, time is passing. We sort of knew that.

The film is also extremely low-budget (just how did these pirates arrive and take over?), which I usually find economical and sometimes charming. Not here. Characterization is also flat, to be expected, I suppose, in a film this telescoped. The cast is as good as it is allowed to be (not very). In the leading roles are Pilou Asbæk (above) as the ship's cook (this actor is so much more interesting as one of the leads -- the PR guy -- in the great Danish TV series Borgen) and Søren Malling as the CEO (below, also from Borgen: He plays the nasty politician turned media mogul), who gets to exhibit a mood or two more than does Mr. Asbæk.

TrustMovies is rather flummoxed by the amazing advance critical notices this film has received. What suspense there is simply built-in. Of course, we care about these poor suckers, pawns in the corporate negotiations. And there is a surprise or two toward the finale. Still, by the end of this too-long, 99-minute movie, I felt hijacked myself.

A Hijacking, from Magnolia Pictures, opens tomorrow, Friday, June 21 in New York City at Film Forum and the Lincoln Plaza Cinema; in Los Angeles it plays at Laemmle's Royal and Playhouse 7, and will also open on Friday in San Francisco, San Raphael and Irvine. For all currently scheduled playdates, click here.

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