Even with its naggingly implausible timeline, this film feels almost shockingly realistic, using urgent documentary filmmaking techniques to tell a story that seems to have come straight from the headlines. So it's frustrating that the film's structure simply doesn't hold water, both confusing us with the order of events and editing scenes to manipulate our reactions.
The film tells the story from two sides. On an empty cargo ship bound for Mumbai from East Africa, the Danish crew is looking forward to flying home to see their families when Somali pirates take the entire ship hostage. The pirate negotiator Oscar (Asgar) forces the overwhelmed chef Mikkel (Asbaek) to communicate with the ship's owners back in Copenhagen. And as he talks to company director Peter (Malling), we see that side of the story as well. Peter consults with a hijacking expert (Porter), but the negotiations slow to a crawl over the following months. And as the situation gets increasingly desperate on the ship, the executives in Denmark have no idea what to do to find a resolution.
Filmmaker Lindholm shoots the film with handheld cameras that throw us right into the chaos on-board, while also letting us feel the more emotional levels of tension in the ship's offices back home. The attention to detail is striking, with natural performances from the cast and some moments that really shock us. Although sometimes this two-perspective approach feels a bit gimmicky, which affects the film's pacing. For example, when two or three weeks pass between a straightforward question and its equally simple answer, we feel like the filmmakers are messing with us.
But the movie looks amazing, shot on an actual freighter as well as in the real offices of a Copenhagen shipping company. Some of the people on-screen are non-actors, and the interaction between all of the characters has an earthy rawness that constantly takes us aback. This also allows the inclusion of some real-life humour, camaraderie and even some genuine terror along the way. Which provides a visceral contrast between the physical strain on the ship and the psychological trauma in the office. This is bracingly inventive filmmaking, but tightening the narrative a little (say, making the ordeal one instead of five months long) would have made it even more riveting.
Production compaines: Danmarks Radio (DR), Nordisk Film
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Director: Tobias Lindholm
Producer: Rene Ezra, Tomas Radoor
Screenwriter: Tobias Lindholm
Starring: Pilou Asbæk as Mikkel Hartmann, Søren Malling as Peter C. Ludvigsen, Dar Salim as Lars Vestergaard, Roland Møller as Jan Sørensen, Gary Skjoldmose Porter as Connor Julian, Abdihakin Asgar as Omar, Amalie Ihle Alstrup as Maria Hartmann, Amalie Vulff Andersen as Kamilla Hartmann, Linda Laursen as Anette Ludvigsen