A Hijacking

By Jared Young

Mailed on August 20, 2013

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Dear Soren Malling

Dear Soren,

Do you feel that, Soren? The heat of summer is dissipating. August has waned and yet another disappointing season of blockbusters has come to an ignominious close. Ahead of us sprawls the barren, hopeless wasteland of the September release schedule. It's that time of year when, to soothe our assailed senses, we here on this side of the Atlantic look to foreign lands for the sort of mature, coherent, adult films that Hollywood (in particular) and America (in general) seem incapable of producing anymore.

Still, who would have thought that the summer's most bad-ass action hero wouldn't be Tony Stark and his army of Iron Men, or Matt Damon in his dystopian exo-suit, or Ryan Gosling kick-boxing his way through the Bangkok underworld, but rather a slight Danish business executive in a red-striped power-tie

The character you play - Peter C. Ludvigsen, the corporate CEO whose protracted negotiations with a group of Somali pirates make for much of the action in A Hijacking - is both steelier and more manly than this summer's other Man of Steel. Cold calculation, stony consideration; in the great early scene that sets up Ludvigsen's prowess as a negotiator (he walks out on a group of Japanese businessmen) we learn everything we need to know about how he expresses his confidence and asserts control. And it's those very qualities that are challenged throughout the movie.

There's a difference between stillness and restraint. It's something that Ryan Gosling sometimes has trouble distinguishing. But you really get it, Soren. The intensity you generate doesn't come from what is implicitly unsaid, but from the physical exertion of not saying it. Writer and director Tobias Lindholm understands this, too. Your performance is like a tonal metronome; when other actors cry out, get angry, break down, the magnitude of it is measured against the harmonic mean of your character's mood.

If the cramped meeting room with whiteboards and speakerphones and empty takeout containers is where the action takes place, then the suspense is generated shipboard, where the cargo vessel's skeleton crew is held captive in cramped quarters. The ambiguousness of their relationship with their captors is more terrifying than any high-concept, stringy-haired ghost-lady horror flick released this year: one moment they're celebrating a caught fish with a birthday song for one of the hostage's daughters, in the next moment that same hostage has the muzzle of a rifle pressed against his head for no other reason than to scare the shit out of him. And it does. And it scares us, too.

This is what restraint and patience earns you: the kind of deeply-felt anxieties and thrills that genre pictures - machines, essentially, built to quickly and efficiently deliver those anxieties and thrills - don't seem, any longer, to aspire to.


Jared Young

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