LAST HIJACK (Netherlands | Germany | Ireland | Belgium/12A/83mins)
Directed by Tommy Pallotta and Femke Wolting.
THE PLOT: Directors Tommy Pallotta and Femke Wolting take a look at the recent problem of Somalian pirates targeting freight and oil ships off the coast of the country. The difference is that this time, the story is told from the perspective of Mohammed, a man who is a seemingly proud to be a pirate.
THE VERDICT: The idea that inspires Last Hijack is an interesting one; to tell the story of the rise in pirate activity from Somalia from the perspective of the pirates. The trouble is that while the idea for the film is an interesting one, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Directors Tommy Pallotta and Femke Wolting focus on one man for the purposes of the film. Mohammed and his family are the focus of the film; his parents bemoaning the fact that their son does not know his children, cannot remember the names of his wives and should not be a pirate. Mohammed, on the other hand, recalls the days when he first “went to sea” and was hailed as a hero when he came home. As well as this, a radio presenter whose show is dedicated to cracking down on pirates is featured in the film. This is arguably the most interesting story featured, as this man is consistently harassed and threatened for the work he is doing, but other than a side note, he doesn’t really feature.
The film makes heavy work out of labouring the symbolism of the story through animated sequences where Mohammed transforms into a bird and attacks ships, and this animation is also used to tell stories from the past, such as Mohammed’s first time capturing a ship and the loss his family suffered from a landslide when he was a child. There is a hint that Mohammed learned his criminal ways from his father who used to rob from cars, but this is also quickly thrown to the side.
While the first half of the film talks to the pirates and the men who want to join them about their spoils, their reasons for attacking ships and the spoils of their activities, the second half turns its attention to Mohammed taking a new bride on the condition that he will stop going “to sea”. This is where the film loses focus and the audience interest, as it turns into a documentary about marital strife, rather than one about the cultural and economic reasons why these men turn to crime. As well as this, the film lacks resolution, as it just seems to stop in the middle of the story; we never know if Mohammed keeps his promise to turn away from piracy, or what happens when he inevitably does go back to sea.
In all, ‘Last Hijack’ has an interesting idea at its heart but lacks focus, making this film that could have been about the social and economic troubles in Somalia that force men to turn to crime into a documentary about a rather unlikeable man making criminal choices with little regard for the consequences. There was an opportunity here that was completely missed.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Last Hijack
Review by Brogen Hayes
2.0A missed chance
  • filmbuff2011

    If you’ve seen Captain Phillips and A Hijacking, then Last Hijack is a mostly worthy companion piece that tells the other side of the story – that of the Somalian pirates, who risk their lives to take on mighty container ships and oil tankers, in true David and Goliath fashion. But rather than go for a fictional approach, co-directors Tommy Pallotta and Femke Wolting have gone down the semi-documentary route. Semi in the sense that it first feels like a fictional story, starting with a striking animation in which pirate Mohamed Nur transforms into a giant bird which then swoops down to seize a pirate ship. After that, it’s a few minutes before talking heads appear and it settles down into the familiar documentary format.

    We follow Mohamed and his motivations for holding ships to ransom. The initial reason for these hijacks lies in territorial protection by local Somalian fishermen of their waters, trying to stop passing trawlers from seizing their catch. This escalated into bigger targets and potentially bigger rewards. Mohamed and his team of bandits are dirt-poor farmers and fishermen, trying to eke out a living for their families. At the same time, they have to face negative reactions from their families and local media. In one telling scene, an anti-piracy radio station manager relates how he has to check under his car for bombs and take different routes to and from work every day. He also relates an incident in which a hand grenade was lobbed at his office. Scary stuff.

    For the first two acts, the film is quite engaging, as Pallotta and Wolting draw the viewer into Mohamed and the reasons for his actions, as he boasts about his exploits and some tense, hairy encounters (well-staged in a number of animated sequences). It’s just business to him – he sees nothing wrong with holding crew members and their ships as hostages for weeks, even months until he and his crew get paid off. The narrative loses momentum though as Mohamed prepares to get married and put his pirate days behind him. He assures his father and his doubtful bride-to-be that he’s done with it all and is ready to settle down to a quiet life. Sadly, it’s just not as interesting as what came before. Less time on that and more time on the actual hijackings would be welcome. Where’s his ‘I’m the captain now’ moment? It’s not here anyway. Still, Last Hijack is a good film and does provide an alternative take on this still-topical theme. ***