Last Hijack (Kino Lorber, NR)

Last-Hijack 75The first question regarding Last Hijack is whether it brings anything new to the table. Fortunately, it does.

Last-Hijack 500

Piracy in Somalia is in decline, at least as measured by the number of attacks on international ships, but you’d never guess it from the number of films about Somali pirates, which remain something of a growth industry. Two fictional presentations took opposite tacks in dramatizing the events of a hijacking—Captain Phillips is basically a Hollywood action film with an heroic Tom Hanks at the center of it all, while A Hijacking takes a much more human-scale approach to dramatizing the hijacking of the MV Rosen, with more emphasis on the negotiations, and the long slow slog of it all, than on the high drama of the attack itself.

If your taste runs more to documentaries, choices on this topic include Stolen Seas, Fishing without Nets, The Project, and now Femke Wolting and Tommy Pallotta’s Last Hijack. Coming rather late to the party as it does, the first question regarding Last Hijack is whether it brings anything new to the table. Fortunately, it does. One is the almost exclusive focus on a single and somewhat anomalous hijacker known as Mohamed, a middle-aged, pudgy, and apparently pleasant fellow, at least when he’s on camera. In other words, he’s about as different as a person could be from the skinny, ragged, and truly frightening hijacker Muse, played by Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips. The other is extensive use of animated sequences to present both events for which no footage exists (e.g., scenes from Mohamed’s childhood), and explorations of Mohamed’s psyche.

The most effective animation sequences are the flights of fancy, particularly the recurring motif of Mohamed morphing into a bird of prey, swooping down on a comically tiny ship and grasping it in his claws as a hawk might attack a mouse. Less successful are the sequences depicting scenes from Mohamed’s childhood, during which ugly, rotoscope-style portrayals of people clash with painted backgrounds that would be at home in a child’s storybook. Pallotta worked with Richard Linklater on Waking Life, and the techniques of portraying people in the animated sequences of Last Hijack clearly recall that earlier film, for better or worse.

A more basic problem with Last Hijack is that it remains determinedly on the surface, accepting the limits presumably created by Mohamed himself, who seems to lack the power of self-reflection. Rather oddly, Last Hijack tries to solicit our sympathy for someone who admits up front that he is in hijacking for the money and prestige. He clearly likes being a big shot, showing off his car and his house, and is eager to brag about the $1.85 million ransom garnered by his first hijacking. He doesn’t seem to care that his chosen profession is regarded as a disgrace by both his parents and his newest wife and in-laws, although he does promise to the latter that he will give it up. He also seems to be one of those guys who likes getting married, and producing children, more than actually doing the work of being a husband and father, so that even his parents point out that he’s around his various families so little that he can’t even recognize his own kids.

A more interesting character in Last Hijack is a journalist who broadcasts anti-piracy messages on the radio, at serious risk to his own life. We don’t get to know much about him personally, but he clearly cares about the young people of Somalia, wants to show them a better way to live, and is willing to endure considerable personal danger in order to do so. It’s too bad we don’t learn more about this man, but his mere presence challenges Mohamed’s self-serving view of the world.

Extras on the disc include a making-of documentary, the trailer, and an interactive featurette. | Sarah Boslaugh

 

 

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