In Apple TV+'s Hijack, the prospect of death is imminent. If Sam Nelson (Idris Elba) doesn't leverage his negotiating talents, disaster may ensue. This commercial deal-broker will have to exploit his eloquence and persuasive ability amidst an aerial hijacking. Even more so, because his skill in manipulating others' emotions is the only resource available for the fellow passenger victims.
A premise like this depends on the tension it can generate. It's achieved through central shots of the plane's body and the various situations unfolding within. Creator and screenwriter George Kay directly bets on the sense of claustrophobia induced by a space-constrained setting. An idea that works during the initial episodes of Hijack, but soon begins to wear thin.
The issue is that Hijack, which tackles several narrative threads at once, fails to encompass all it proposes. On one end is Sam Nelson and his desperate attempt to prevent a terrorist group from carrying out their threat. On the other, the ground authorities, who navigate as best they can amidst collective panic and the criminals' demands. Included are also the private stories of various passengers, potential victims whom Idris Elba's character saves time and time again.
This ambitious AppleTV+ proposal combines a sense of urgency and claustrophobia into a single narrative. A commercial negotiator, Sam Nelson (Idris Elba), must prevent a terrorist group from committing an unimaginable act of violence on a hijacked plane. He must do it against the clock and with only one resource: his eloquence. A similar story could triumph with a more compact, tense, and elegant script. However, the production becomes repetitive and doesn't move beyond a weak debate on survival and power. By its disappointing finale, it's clear that more than a charismatic protagonist is needed for success.
A Good Idea That Soon Stagnates
The plot of Hijack becomes chaotic when adding scenes of imminent disaster filled with artificial urgency. The kidnappers' threat soon turns into an excuse for Sam to shine. Particularly when it's unexpectedly easy for the protagonist to deceive and twist the intentions of the armed men holding him captive.
The story envisioned by George Kay has much in common with intense and distressing dramas about fear turned into a survival resource. But the plot fails due to lack of solidity or inability to extend it beyond the first three episodes. A difficulty that the production carries throughout its narrative.
In fact, the real problem with Hijack is that it prolongs its conflict until it becomes repetitive and obvious. Particularly after demonstrating that Sam has a potent ability to prevent the terrorists from executing their plans. Instead of progressing—and proposing novel perspectives on fear—it focuses all its attention on its central character's intelligence.
Hijack, But Without Surprises
As a result, all his efforts gradually seem gratuitous. No weapons, fights, or verbal diatribes are involved. The confrontation is a tug of war between two wills. But the perspective is increasingly less believable considering Sam embodies everything the terrorists are fighting against.
This man, who admits to being invited to the most exclusive and luxurious places, must face criminals wanting to dynamite the world order. Expressing ideas directly opposed to his own. The script lacks the necessary wit for the ideological or viewpoint battle to make sense. Even more so when the series reveals its end almost immediately. Between the dilemma of dying or killing, Sam will survive because the terrorists are not willing to commit suicide for a cause. At least, that's the subtext of a poorly developed and chaotic plot.
A Mission Without Consequences
In its final sequences, Hijack makes it clear that its greatest support lies in its dialogues. However, instead of being interesting, unique, or powerful, they're a collection of common points about violence, fear, or control. Gradually, and much more when the conclusion is obvious, everything that happens in the production seems like a waste of time. A series of poorly fitted pieces that lead nowhere and turn its closure into a huge cliché.
Hijack could have been a review of the reasons for global ideological aggression and how to dismantle its intellectual foundations. But the script falls short against such an idea and ends up being merely a weak drama with a brilliant protagonist.
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