What is it with these Danish film and tv makers? Of course I am only exposed to the best part of their annual output, and no doubt there will be a number of movies and tv shows as mediocre as in other places… but the sheer absolute numbers of great Danish films that you can see in any given year for the last 5 years or so is astonishing.
Another example: “Kapringen” is a very calm film about a very catastrophic event for everybody involved. Pirates hijack a ship off the Indian coast, and the machinery starts rolling to get the hostages free. It is refreshing to see how very deliberately to step out of the way of everything a Hollywood production would have done: they don’t show the hijacking, they don’t make the negotiations culminate to a heart throbbing finale, they don’t introduce a hero who saves the day, they don’t allow any of the characters to step up beyond what they are. These are normal people in extraordinary circumstances, balancing the possibilities, in need of following their procedures. Whether it’s the pirates (they have all the time of the world, only living for money they expect to get out of this, but they also have a degree of machismo and temper that looks dangerous), or their negotiator (pissed off enormously by being identified with the pirates, pissed off even more by not being able to return to his family because the negotiations take such a long time), the ship company’s CEO (desperate to do his duty, but torn between his responsibility to his company and that to his staff on the boat), the hijacking expert he brought in (a mostly patient Aussie who keeps saying the right things, but still comes across as a cold jerk), the ship’s chef (the closest we have to a hero… but soon broken by fear and desperation), and his wife (which would play a heroic role in any other film, but is very much restrained by the needs of due process). Nothing happens, for a long time, and the baby steps towards an agreement between the negotiating parties threatens to break everybody (but the pirates themselves maybe).
The strength of the film is that it allows to unfold this process, that we become witness as especially the CEO and the chef reach their breaking point. What the film is about is them – we wonder how long you can remain calm, when the escalation will come, when they will not be able anymore to contain their emotions and their mortal fear. These moments do come, and since we learned that these will be dangerous moments, the film allows us to witness a thriller, after all. No explosions needed, no retired secret agents wearing a sweaty shirt and shooting at the bad guys while working on the next clever quib… but still tense, intense and very personal, as a good film should be. This is a good film, a very good one!