A Hijacking, written and directed by Dane Tobias Lindholm, is engaging and memorable because it pays attention to actual people in an extraordinary situation; a cargo ship, preparing to arrive at harbor in the Indian Ocean, is held captive by Somali pirates wielding machine guns and lots of frightening screaming. The characters don’t meander or whore themselves to whatever Hollywood happens to think its (perceived mindless) audience expects in a movie; they don’t just skim the top of the endless well of human diversity. And they don’t suddenly bloom in the face of crisis like quasi-superheroes before our eyes, dazzling an audience only to be later deflated with a vague sense of hollow betrayal. The film’s story drives a true tension and a building sympathy, as well as frustration and a kind of hatred, all the while in a setting showing the banality and grit of everyday life on a cargo ship at sea.
Lindholm doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the pirates either; he refrains from showing that they are also human beings after all, and thereby soliciting sympathy for their desperation and plight. Told from the points of view of the likeable cook aboard the ship and the embattled CEO of the shipping company, the gun-toting pirates come of as a confusing force of meanness, and the reasons for their violence are almost rendered irrelevant. They chatter in an unintelligible local tongue, and along with the cook and his fellow workers held at gunpoint, we are lost and desperate to understand what is happening, or at least to make the terror end.