The recent popularity in Scandinavian television dramas has meant that we’ve been delivered some deliciously well-made movies from those regions. Indeed, there has never been a better time to catch some superb exports from Denmark. Last year we had the brilliant costume drama, A Royal Affair, and the darkly disturbing The Hunt. This year we’ve already had the delightfully romantic Love Is All You Need and now we get A Kidnapping, a story that is ripped from the pages of the newspapers and produces an incredibly tense thriller.
A cargo ship, the MV Rozen, is heading back to port in Denmark when it is taken over by Somali pirates. The crew are taken hostage and negotiations between the pirates and the company who own the ship begin. With the ship’s captain taken ill, the responsibility for the rest of the crew and some of the negotiations rest on the shoulders of the ship’s cook, Mikkel, a family man who was about to leave the vessel when it was taken.
What begins is a cat and mouse negotiation between the CEO of the shipping company, Peter, being guided by a hijacking expert from England, and Omar, a man who is working for the pirates. The coldness of Peter not to sway to the demands of the pirates means that the hijacking goes on far longer than anyone really anticipates and threatens to result in tragedy.
Writer director Tobias Lindholm, who wrote the hit TV show Borgen and the excellent The Hunt, has produced a nail-bitingly tense thriller that is more about the ignorance of a corporate company than about the capture and treatment of hijacking victims. Lindholm’s film is exceptionally well lit and shifts between the darkness of the ship and the cold, harsh white lights of the company offices. It not only looks good but also helps in building the tension and the pacing of the piece, using a semi-documentary style of filmmaking to bring a sense of realism.
We are shown the brutal environment that the captives have to suffer. The stench-ridden cabin that the ailing captain is sharing with Mikkel and Jan, an engineer with an upbeat outlook, is compared to Peter’s world, in which his main concern seems to be spending time with his wife and wearing a clean shirt.
The hypocrisy of the company is the shocking thing about this film. You question who the real villains are. At the beginning we see the hard-nose Peter in a business deal that is about millions and yet he and his board won’t stretch to the same amount for the lives of the men.
Lindholm’s film is often stark and sometimes very painful to watch, not in a violent and bloody way, but in terms of how these men are treated, both by the pirates and by the company that are supposedly there to support them. The absence of any real soundtrack (apart from near the end), aids the film’s overall tone and works magnificently. We aren’t forced into making emotional decisions by a stirring musical accompaniment, but are allowed the freedom to decide for ourselves.
The performances are all good but the two standouts are Pilou Asbæk and Søren Malling. Asbæk as the cook, is a quiet, likeable man at the beginning who is forced into a role of responsibility that he doesn’t really want and the whole experience is a life-changing one. Meanwhile, Malling as Peter, comes across as a man who doesn’t care. He is told by the English adviser not to get emotionally involved, which, for the most part, he doesn’t, until he realises that these men’s lives are in his hands. It is a masterful example of a controlled performance.
Avoiding all the trappings of a Hollywood blockbuster, this is a quietly powerful piece that grips from the very first frame. It is a true testament that a film that lacks any real violence or any real action can be just as exciting. A triumph.
Words: Stuart WrenJump to comments