HIJACK – Review by Diane Carson

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Hijack follows in real time the hijacking of Kingdom Flight KA29

For those of us hooked on the television series, Hijack feeds that adrenaline rush of events unfolding in real time, this one over seven hours. There’s no ticking clock, but time is of the essence after Kingdom Flight KA29 leaves Dubai for London. Within minutes, several hijackers—men and one woman—take control of the plane.

No spoilers here, that really would ruin the unexpected events, but it doesn’t take long to establish that on the aircraft and on the ground in London, these terrorists will murder without hesitation. The stakes are astronomical, literally life and death for two hundred plus passengers. Their fate rests primarily with corporate negotiator Sam Nelson, in first class, hoping to reunite upon arrival with his devoted son Kai and to repair his relationship with his alienated wife, involved with a Metropolitan police detective. Also soon involved are a Heathrow air traffic controller, the British Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary, and several other government officials.

As life-threatening events on the plane escalate, a diverse array of passengers—young and old, men and women—make important decisions and guesses about events. First and foremost, as Sam Nelson, the always exciting Idris Elba must act and react as demands and conflicts arise. Co-writer George Kay also wrote Lupin and worked on the first (and best) season of Killing Eve, so he knows his way around tension and fascinating characters. Directors Jim Field Smith and Mo Ali also effectively ratchet up the suspense in a claustrophobic environment. Moreover, the diversity of passengers and their knowledge, observations, and skills offer a wealth of details: guesses and strategies, cowardice and bravery, cleverness and stupidity.

But it’s Idris Elba (need I say more?) who elevates the intensity as he charismatically commands the camera. Just watching his face offers sufficient, compelling power of resourcefulness. His thoughts race, his emotions intrude, his understanding of human behavior and motivation factor in, and Sam has to take chances. In addition, thanks the genius of a setting, the diverse cast expands the possibilities with many strong performances. Hijack will, in final analysis, give many travelers pause as they board their flights. The seven episodes of Hijack stream on Apple TV+.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.