Despite a surprisingly low action quotient (don’t expect muscular, Under Siege-style heroics), director Tobias Lindholm ratchets up the tension masterfully in his taut psychological thriller about the hijacking of Danish ship MV Rozen by Somali pirates.
Following just the ship’s well-meaning cook (Pilou Asbæk), and a chilly chief exec who treats the ransom talks as strictly business (Søren Malling), it wrings astonishing amounts of drama from the sweatily stop-start negotiation ordeal.
As well as the film’s almost documentary realism (it’s required viewing for shipping personnel), here the brief but telling extras show off Lindholm’s dedication to accuracy.
Using the real-life experience of hijack negotiator gary skjoldmose porter (even casting him as the shipping line’s hijack consultant), plus the hostage horrors undergone by the location ship’s engineer Juma Mvita, he gives the movie an extraordinary verisimilitude.
Asbæk and Malling didn’t get off lightly, either – the crackling, faltering phone calls that form the spine of the movie were shot nervily live from the ship-board location to the Danish one, and the ‘hostages’ were cooped-up, all to keep everyone on edge.
More a pared-back procedural than a meaty melodrama like The Hunt, on which Lindholm was co-writer, it’s a movie leanly underwritten throughout.
What elevates it are Borgen veterans Asbæk and Malling, who play raw and rigid respectively but punch at the same dramatic weight, to absorbing effect.
Lindholm’s duck-and- diving camera sticks to them as closely as white on rice, pulling the viewer into the claustrophobic heart of their dilemmas.