‘Does what it says on the tin’ can be an expression suggesting disapproval, but in this case it simply sums up admirably exactly what this film is about. And very good it is too.
Both the story and the film makers are Danish, although half the film is set in The Indian Ocean. Mikkel is a young Dane working as a cook on a cargo ship bound for Mumbai. He hasn’t seen his girlfriend and daughter in weeks, and he’s dying to get home, but unfortunately, dying becomes a more dangerous possibility when Somali pirates board the ship and hold the crew hostage.
Back in Denmark, Peter, the CEO of the shipping company is jerked out of his comfortable existence by the news, and although he calls in a hijack specialist, he ignores his advice to hire a negotiator and decides to do the negotiating himself. This process is the main course of the film. We never actually see the hijacking itself, we simply hear about it, and are then back on board the ship with a dozen heavily armed pirates pointing guns at the crew. It seems that the reason for the prolonged negotiation is that if you accept the first sum the Somalis ask for, they will simply ask for more. You have to start low and gradually come closer to an agreed figure – over a period of many weeks. So when they ask for $15 million, Peter offers $250,000, and so it goes on, edging towards the inevitable conclusion while the crew sweat and fret and their families are in a state of permanent anxiety.
The film’s strength lies in its simplicity. There are two areas of activity, and two different sets of characters in each. The only interaction between the two worlds is via a crackling phone line. Both spaces are cramped and full of tension, but in one of them they wear suits and ties; in the other, they wear tee shirts stained with sweat and dirt. Peter (the boss) becomes so immersed in the situation that he doesn’t go home, and shouts at his wife when she comes to see how he is. He feels responsible, and cannot rest till his men are safe.
It’s a well made and impressive film, from the same school as TV series like Borgen (and with Soren Malling as Peter). There are no flashy gimmicks and only one nasty twist at the end. It may not have huge commercial potential, but it is infinitely superior to any American equivalents of which there have been many.
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