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Originally published Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 3:01 PM

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‘A Hijacking’: a tense, realistic high-seas thriller

A movie review of “A Hijacking,” a terrific thriller about Somali pirates taking over a Danish cargo ship in the Indian Ocean.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 3.5 stars

‘A Hijacking,’ with Pilou Asbaek, Soren Malling. Written and directed by Tobias Lindholm. 99 minutes. Rated R for violence, profanity. In English, Danish and Swedish, with English subtitles. Harvard Exit.

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Blink and you’ll miss the bit of action that gives this terrific thriller its title.

Like the Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men,” which almost buried the fate of its central character, “A Hijacking” is more interested in keeping its audience on edge than it is in spelling out major plot developments.

Also given relatively little screen time is a family left behind in an international crisis. When Somali pirates take over a Danish cargo ship in the Indian Ocean, the cook’s wife and young daughter find themselves helpless back home in Denmark.

The filmmakers maintain focus partly by using lengthy takes and shaky camerawork to create a pervasive sense of uncertainty on both the ship and in an executive boardroom, where the fate of the hostages is debated.

The jittery style can suggest a deliberate avoidance of clarity. Just how did these pirates triumph so quickly? When the movie’s over, you’re left with a few questions.

Nevertheless, writer-director Tobias Lindholm (a co-writer on the recent Seattle International Film Festival favorite “The Hunt”) justifies his confidence in a visual approach that’s refreshingly realistic.

Best of all, his characters are vividly alive, especially the ship’s sweet cook, Mikkel (Pilou Asbaek), and an over-his-head Chief Executive Officer, Peter (Soren Malling), who drags out negotiations with the pirates with stalling explanations like, “We’re getting there.”

John Hartl:

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