If it were not galling enough to have the Danes teaching us how to make brainy, nailbiting drama on television, now they're doing it in the cinema, too. A Hijacking, which borrows one writer and two actors from Borgen, is a mercilessly taut depiction of what happens when a gang of Kalashnikov-toting Somali pirates commandeers a cargo ship in the Indian ocean.
Hoping to make it through the ordeal is Pilou Asbaek, the ship's hearty but increasingly traumatised cook (a nod to Under Siege, although Asbaek couldn't be further from Steven Seagal). But the genius of the film is that only half of it takes place at sea, while the rest plays out in the swanky head office of the shipping company, thousands of miles away in Denmark. The company's CEO, Soren Malling, is an indomitable, almost emotionless negotiator who insists on talking to the pirates himself, via speakerphone. A dead ringer for Nick from The Apprentice, he seems to treat the crisis as a Sugar task in which the goal is to settle on the lowest ransom, rather than to get his employees home in one piece.
As days turn into weeks and then months, there's no ignoring the contrast between the grimy captives, stewing in their cramped cabin, and the sharp-suited executives in their immaculate boardrooms, but A Hijacking is too restrained and focused to make grand political generalisations. Paring away the characters' back stories and what's-my-motivation speeches, it's a sober, documentary-style account, but it's as nerve-jangling as any thriller.
There's another kind of hostage scenario in Our Children (Joachim Lafosse, 105 mins, 15 *****), an overwhelming true-crime drama which reunites Tahar Rahim and Niels Arestrup from A Prophet. Rahim plays a twentysomething Moroccan who was raised in Belgium by Arestrup's well-off doctor. There are rumours that they're more than just adoptive father and son, but when Rahim falls madly in love with a teacher, Emilie Dequenne, Arestrup is generous to a fault: he employs Rahim as his receptionist, and invites the couple to share his Brussels home.
On the surface, Dequenne is handed an enviably comfortable existence, but in return she cedes all control over her own future. Arestrup and Rahim make all the decisions; the camera spies on her through doorways, so she always seems stifled and under surveillance; and when she starts having babies, the bars of her gilded cage feel thicker than ever.
Our Children is a sort of feminist horror movie about a woman trapped in a house with a monster – someone who's literally killing her with kindness. But Joachim Lafosse's complex film goes way beyond that. Despite its confined domestic setting, it speaks volumes about the state of the wider world today.
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