"“A truly absorbing piece of cinema that you must seek out...”"

There are few nations currently excelling in contemporary cinema as much as the Danes at present, and following on from the outstanding drama The Hunt, which was released last winter, writer Tobias Lindholm returns, except this time in the director's chair, in his second consecutive five star film – with the immensely tense and simply breathtaking A Hijacking.

We aboard a Danish cargo ship, out in the vast depths of the Indian Ocean, consisting of a modest crew including that of the chef Mikkel Hartmann (Pilou Asbæk), looking forward to returning home to visit his wife and young daughter. However their boat is hijacked by a fearsome group of Somali pirates, demanding a large ransom fee for the boat and the release of their hostages. Various phone-calls transpire between pirate negotiator Omar (Abdihakin Asgar) and the CEO of the shipping company Peter C. Ludvigsen (Søren Malling), as a physiological contest unfolds, with the lives of the innocent hostages at the heart of this terrible ordeal.

Where Lindholm's picture comes out on top, is within the intense, naturalistic approach, as a film that prides itself in the realism of the situation, as a feature that could almost be passed off as a documentary. The shaky, handheld camera work enhances such a notion, while Lindholm places the viewer on this ship, and you can almost smell the stench of the sweat emanating off our lead characters. The realism is a huge factor into what makes A Hijacking such a special piece of cinema. The negotiating phone-calls between the actors were genuine, as they would improvise each conversation while our resident filmmaker would tap into the line. Meanwhile the picture is shot in secret on pirate filled waters, taking place on a boat that had been hijacked before in real life, not to mention the fact that former hostages and negotiators make up much of this picture's cast. Lindholm even shot this feature chronologically too to get a sense for the physical and psychological demise of the characters on board the ship, yet another factor that works ingeniously.

Of course being realistic is an important aspect to the piece, but we also require impressive direction to get the most out of this story and characters, and Lindholm does a sublime job. The structure is just perfect, as the order of which the story is told keeps you completely captivated from the word go, while the cutting between the board room and hostages is seamless, done with superb timing and skill as each respective part is given the appropriate amount of screen time. Lindholm implements a host of other effective techniques, such as leaving the actual hijacking to our imagination, forced to envisage what occurred. The way we are introduced to our two leads is masterful too, as we are fed very small but immensely substantial bits of information. We learn that Mikkel has an adoring wife and child (plus a dry sense of humour, which we see dissipate slowly), and we witness Peter concluding a multimillion pound deal sternly yet efficiently. That's all we get, but that is all we need. The story is set.

The performances from both Asbæk and Malling are superb, as we get into their heads completely, yet still able to be surprised by their unpredictability. The pirates are all impressive too, making for some incredibly tense scenes – even when the group are presented having fun, there remains a foreboding, atmosphere, and one that could turn sour at any moment. Such an intensity is enhanced by the fact that the Somalian language isn't subtitled for the viewer, putting us in the same situation as the hostages, intimidated and frightened by the unknown. Lindholm deals with our antagonists expertly, as he avoids using the differing ethnicities as a plot point, and the subject is delicately dealt with, never becoming a “white man versus...” story, a trap that Argo, for example, fell into. Instead we are able to view upon this story from the bigger economic picture and be able to comprehend and appreciate the motives and objectives of the Somalians within this situation.

There is a beautifully poignant message to this, as we explore the devastating conflict between money and human lives. A Hijacking is riveting, it's intense, and it is hugely emotional. Although you may not necessarily enjoy watching this, it remains a truly absorbing piece of cinema that you must seek out.