by Jaime Grijalba.
Kapringen (2012, Tobias Lindholm)
How much would you pay for a human life? I’m not talking about how much does it cost to actually bring a life into existence (there are many calculations regarding doctors, clothes, education, nurishment, etc, that can easily go sky-high in terms of the actual price of bringing another life to this planet in our present condition), but I’m talking about how much of a price do you put in someone else’s head… of course, you’d say that it depends, you wouldn’t pay a dime for the life of someone like Hitler (to put the most obvious and terrible example), but for your actual son or daughter, it could easily go into millions and millions of dollars, that you might not have, but would be able to pay nonetheless so that their life is still there. But again, I’m still not talking about that, I’m talking not about a sense of actual pertainence, that you could get to ‘own’ the life that you pay for, but how much would you actually pay for someone to be alive, for somebody that you also don’t know, to keep themselves alive, how much worth does actual human life has in a pure ‘let this human being keep on living’ sense has? That is one of the questions that is asked in this film, and you might say that in any other ransom film the question is the same, as to how much are you actually willing to pay to release a bunch of people that are being held captive by another party, but here it’s different, as we are put in the skin of not only those who are held captive, but in the mind of the one in charge of paying the ransom, but the man in charge is also a business man. Let’s say you’re responsible for the situation, but at the same time you have to be senseless: you can’t pay too much for human life, in the end, how much does it actually cost?
Opening this week in select theaters of the US, we have this film from Denmark from second-time filmmaker Tobias Lindholm, where he masterfully handles two kinds of filmmaking and ways of delivering the information regarding one situation. Showing a lot of constraint to entice the viewer and pull him into the situation in which he will be immersed during the next 100 minutes, the director uses an approach that most thriller filmmakers would never take when making a film about a hijacking: here Tobias never allows the viewer to see the act of hijacking itself, only the results of it, same goes for the final rescue of the people who were held ransom (we all know that they will be rescued, so this isn’t really a spoiler), but he does watch everything that is between, but what is most interesting, he doesn’t only show the relation between the captors and the captives, but also between the captors and those who must pay the money for the captives to be released, and that’s how the director mainly hides and doesn’t show us the actual state of many characters during the most tense and heartbreaking moments of the situation of hijacking. The objective of the attack is a cargo ship from Denmark that is carrying miscelaneous stuff, among them a bunch of goats, there we are under the perspective of the cook of the ship, who has a daughter and wife, whom he wants to go back to as soon as he can, but he is cut short when a group of Somalian pirates take the boat and ask the owners of the ship for over 15 million dollars. At the same time as this is happening, we see the CEO of the company finalizing a deal with a group of japanese inversionists, in which they settle, after many negotiations for a deal under 15%, kinda foreshadowing of things to come.
When the hijacking is confirmed, we see the other side of the story, the one of the CEO and the negotiator who try to find a way of comunicating with the pirates through radio, where they can negotiate with the lives of those that are on the boat, as well as the boat itself. They use tactics that are used in similar situations, but when you see them in effect the audience can easily have two reactions: they seem logical in terms of how negotiations work when there are lives at stake and at the same time when you’re trying to have the goods delivered without any harm, that is something like not talking to hostages about the money they need to deliver, and only talk about that with the man in charge of the negotiation and the assaulting crew; on the other hand, those same tactics are so inhumane that it’s as if the strategies of modern economic negociation were applied to the exchange of human life, which is specially dangerous when you have a bunch of pirates pointing machineguns to the head of your own employees, in the end, it’s a game about how much are you willing to risk the life of those you employed and at the same time how little you can pay for the life of them (he starts slowly building from a couple hundred thousand dollars, risible in any shape or form, to a more acceptable though still low prize for the life of his crew and the boat, 3.3 million dollars). The only problem with the approach given in this film is that the CEO of the company knows that he has to act cold, yet we are given a glimpse of his humanity when he is just desperate and doesn’t know what to do.
I guess that it’s still a strong film for what it can achieve inside of you in terms of reflections, on how actually valuable (in terms of dollars) is a human life for someone who doesn’t really care about you, but about how much money he can’t pay and the less people get harmed in the meantime, you know people, a economic kind of thinking: pay less, big profit, less harm… which doesn’t always mean no harm at all. It’s impressive to see how the days and weeks pile one after the other as the negotiations prolong themselves and at times not moving at all. The story of the cook is also impressive by the way he has to speak and relate to the chief of the pirates, Omar, who also speaks english, like him, and as he is the only one who can cook on board, he is the one responsible for the nurishment of the crew and the pirates. The acting of the film is naturalistic, there’s no fake note here, but there’s also almost a need for the ‘solitary moment’ for every important character, where we see them in shadows or against a heavy light, reflecting on what they’ve done or what they’ve lived, and I think that seems more and more a visual cliché that has permeated into the acting of those scenes, making them laughable at times. In the end, ‘A Hijacking’ is for sure a strong film that may find its fans among those who search for certain kind of realism and grittyness that is real, and at the same time those who have a particular interest on the subject of life, its worth… and its price. (****)