Right from the start you somehow sense the seedy, visual drama A Hijacking will be. You feel a sense of foreboding about that swaying ship’s cabin and the ominous waves in the background, a feeling of being at sea, but not in a nice way.

The tousled- headed, bearded ship’s cook Mikkel - played by Pilou Asbæk from Danish TV series Borgen - is talking into a ship-to-shore phone. He is on board the cargo ship MV Rozen somewhere out in the Indian ocean, bound for Mumbai. He is telling his wife that he will be home two days later than he had promised. “Don’t get mad at me,“ he begs her gently.

After speaking to his daughter, he tells his wife how much he loves her, and the conversation ends. That is the first of many phone conversations from the MV Rosen, but the rest of them will be of an entirely different nature.

Cut to Copenhagen and the shipping company bosses going about their business in harbour-fronting meeting rooms and offices. Peter C Ludvigen (Søren Malling, Borgen) is a particularly hands-on CEO, - we see him drive a hard bargain in a multi-million dollar shipping deal with a group of Japanese businessmen.

After his assistant manager Lars Vestergaard (Dar Salim, Borgen) fails to get the Japanese to reduce their asking price, he takes over and succeeds. In this revealing set-piece, we learn perfectly the mettle of this steely CEO.

And despite his promises, Mikkel the cook won’t be home that month at all. For shortly after the phone call to wife and daughter, the MV Rozen is hijacked by a band of Somali pirates, who do not speak either Danish or English. Short on lingo they may be, but there are rough and dangerous.Their interpreter Omar, however, speaks English, but repeatedly pleads his neutral status, insisting that he is not a pirate.

In that business deal, Peter may have shown how he could bring the Japanese down in price.But that negotiation was a mere dress rehearsal for what he must now do to save his employees at sea. He calls in a hijacking expert who advises him not to directly negotiate with the pirates who are demanding $15 million.

The expert strongly advises him to hire a negotiator who would be at an emotional distance from the process. But, true to form, Peter insists on handing the affair himself and thus commits himself to a process which will almost sap his entire mental equilibrium.

Can he bring the pirates down from the crazily exorbitant sum they are demanding? If he grants the pirates a generous sum at first they will merely see it as a deposit and will demand more. So the process has to be long drawn out, like a poker game.

Harrowing, grittily realistic and moving, A Hijacking is the creation of Tobias Lindholm, writer of the immensely successful Danish TV series Borgen and the chilling movie The Hunt. The viewer is right there in the middle of the nightmare on board ship and in the plush offices of the shipping company as negotiations become incrementally tense, and phone and fax negotiations bounce back and forth. A Hijacking is a work of genius. The film opens at the IFI and Light House.

Paddy Kehoe