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A crisis at sea stokes up the tension in ‘A Hijacking’

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Mikkel Pilou Asbaek

Lars Dar Salim

Connor Gary Skjoldmose

Jan Roland Moller

Omar Abdihakin Asgar

Peter Soren Malling

Magnolia Pictures pre­sents a film written and directed by Tobias Lindholm. In Danish, with English subtitles. Running time: 103 minutes. Rated R (for language). Opening Friday at the Music Box.

Updated: August 6, 2013 6:20AM

Danish writer-director Tobias Lindholm makes an impressive solo debut with “A Hijacking,” a tensely economical study of leadership, teamwork and negotiation in crisis situations.

Lindholm’s writing credits include 20 episodes of the politically themed, BAFTA-winning Danish hit “Borgen,” as well as Thomas Vinterberg’s “Submarino” (2010) and “The Hunt” (2012), which won Mads Mikkelsen the best actor prize at Cannes last year. With Michael Noer he co-wrote and co-directed “R” (2010), a fine prison picture unfairly overshadowed by the global success of the similarly themed “A Prophet.”

Working without Noer here, Lindholm again examines men stuck in cramped, confined situations for extended periods, his screenplay splitting its focus between the Rozen, a cargo ship in the Indian Ocean overtaken by Kalashnikov-toting Somali pirates, and the boat owners’ Copenhagen office. After brisk scene-setting in which we’re introduced to ship’s cook Mikkel (Pilou Asbaek), establishing sympathy by providing him with a wife and young daughter back home in Denmark, Lindholm audaciously skips forward two days and thus avoids showing the actual hijacking process altogether.

We learn about this piv­otal development second hand, at the same time as the shipping company responsible for the welfare of the Rozen crew. Ignoring the advice of the expert (Gary Skjoldmose Porter) hired to oversee proceedings, the company’s CEO Peter (Soren Malling) negotiates directly on the phone with the hostage takers, represented by multilingual translator Omar (Abdihakin Asgar). As the days turn into weeks and then months, Mikkel and his shipmates aboard the Rozen must endure rapidly deteriorating conditions.

Lindholm again collaborates with key personnel from “R,” chiefly cinematographer Magnus Nordenhof Jonck and editor Adam Nielsen, in a production which exudes impressively steely control on all levels. We shift back and forth between the sleekly modern Copenhagen office suites and the Rozen, with the below-decks atmosphere on the craft turning miasmic as the men cope without access to basic hygiene facilities.

Asbaek, the leading man of “R,” also returns, near-unrecognizable here as the genially bearish Mikkel, though the chef gradually recedes from prominence as the emphasis shifts to his employer Peter. It’s middle-aged Peter’s character, lea­dership and decisiveness that are the crux of the matter, including the degree to which he can trust and give responsibility to his dynamic deputy Lars — another forceful turn from soldier-turned-actor Dar Salim, four years after his breakthrough “Go With Peace Jamil.”

Working effectively with the professional actors in the cast, meanwhile, real-life marine security expert Gary Skjoldmose Porter further boosts the general air of hard-knock versimilitude in a production that illuminatingly and sensitively dramatizes an easily overlooked global crime phenomenon.

Hollywood Reporter

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