(Tobias Lindholm, 2012)
This enthralling, spare drama depicts the hijacking of a Danish freighter in the Indian Ocean by a band of Somali pirates.
As it starts, we think that Mikkel (Johan Philip Asbæck), the ship’s cook and an instantly warm and likeable fellow, will be our protagonist. But soon after he is introduced and before the hijacking occurs, Lindholm introduces Peter (Søren Malling), the CEO of the Company. He is a ruthless negotiator in the boardroom and something of a smooth operator, utterly in control of his business and each situation he finds himself in. We see the hijacking as he does – he is interrupted in the middle of a meeting with news that a ship may have been hijacked. All is confusion. Then Lindholm cuts back to Mikkel onboard, a Somali pirate waving an AK-47 in his face, and the twin strands of this narrative are made plain.
We see Peter attempt to negotiate with Omar, the English-speaking “translator” brought in by the Pirates, while Mikkel struggles to stay alive and sane as the days in captivity turn first into weeks and then into months.
Just as he did in his brusing prison drama R, Lindholm shoots this film with a raw, brutal efficiency; there is nothing ostentatious or flowery here. The storytelling is tight, the dedication to realism total. Performances are sweaty and emotional. Unexpectedly, while Mikkel begins to crumble in the face of the intimidation and depravation he encounters, Peter’s suffering mirrors it.
He is warned early on by a negotiation expert his firm has hired as a consultant that he must avoid emotional involvement, but he cannot, and the ordeal just about destroys him.
Lindholm makes great use of his confined locations, juxtaposing the filthy sweatboxes on board the ship with the sterile tension of the modern office the negotiators find themselves trapped within, just as the stained, ragged clothes the prisoners wear is contrasted with the tight tailoring of the executives we see in Copenhagen.
It’s a tremendously effective and gripping drama with a nasty ending and fine performances all round. On the strength of his first two films, Lindholm might well be a director to keep an eye on.