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Hijack movie review

Review Series – Hijack (2023)

The slow-burning, tension-filled airplane hijacking drama “Hijack” is the latest real-time serial drama from AppleTV+ and marks the debut series for Idris Elba and his production company, Green Door Production. The first two episodes were released on June 28, 2023, and the first season comprises seven episodes.

Created by Jim Field Smith and George Kay, “Hijack” is a fast-paced thriller series that somehow manages to be detail-oriented enough to keep viewers engaged in the hijacking story, rather than highlighting plot hiccups or logical questions.

Thriller series, especially those involving major events like hijackings or terrorist attacks, tend to take significant logical leaps to heighten the tension. Ideally, the storyline would be as tight as a drum, allowing viewers to stay engaged in the action without being distracted by plot holes.

Weaving Every Detail of Emerging Characters

Hijack - Weaving Every Detail of Emerging Characters

“Hijack” concludes with its strongest episode, boasting a star-studded cast. Apple TV Plus has scored a major success. The show’s finale is fitting and ties up every last detail, even calling back to the first episode.

Every role drives the story beautifully. Idris Elba’s bold and precise performance as the lead is the heart of “Hijack.” The supporting cast is equally effective in keeping the plot engaging.

The airplane passengers, though passive, create tension in several scenes. The hijackers, filling every line, maintain a calm atmosphere aboard the aircraft, which is frustratingly gripping.

The ground situation, aware of a hijacking with specific motives, continues to negotiate and plan to save over 200 passengers, despite casualties.

Isn’t it Boring Just on the Plane?

Hijack - Isn't it Boring Just on the Plane?

Setting the story within the confines of a plane might seem monotonous in some scenes. However, perfect diversions are provided by detailed depictions of ground conditions and Air Traffic Control. The negotiating characters perform their roles well.

In terms of special effects, the team does a fantastic job, making everything believable. All props are, of course, not done in an actual flying aircraft.

Some scenes are set in an airport, and the escort by fighter jets adds a bit of an adrenaline rush, especially during the climactic landing.

An Unexpected Resolution to the Hijacking

HIjack - An Unexpected Resolution to the Hijacking

The last two episodes bring surprises, and it’s unlikely anyone would guess a new character’s involvement in the chaos. It’s not just on the plane; the connection with the ground negotiations adds to the thrill.

A character named Amanda, introduced in the penultimate episode, is the biggest surprise of the series. Her presence isn’t a plot twist but expands the hijackers’ clever game.

Ultimately, the hijackers’ motives and goals are revealed. It seems implausible, with lives lost, including the captain. The final negotiations between Sam and Amanda, and their joint effort to land the plane, are heart-pounding.

Episode Recap

Episode 1 [Recap & Review]

Hijack Ep. 1

The inaugural episode of “Hijack” takes off at Dubai Airport. Kingdom Flight 29 is set for a 7-hour journey to Heathrow in London. The aircraft is piloted by Captain Robin Allen (Ben Miles) and First Officer Anna Kovacs (Kaisa Hammarlund).

Episode 2 [Recap & Review]

Hijack Ep. 2

Episode 2, titled “3 Degrees,” escalates the series’ tension as it delves into the infiltration of the hijackers who begin to take control of the aircraft. The real adrenaline surge comes when Sam (Idris Elba) decides to fight back, delivering on the high-stakes tension promised in the show’s marketing.

Episode 3 [Recap & Review]

Hijack Ep. 3

The main conflict in Episode 3 of “Hijack” is best explained through the concept of Schrödinger’s cat, illustrating that multiple possibilities could be true. It highlights the constant duality until an investigation reveals the actual truth.

Episode 4 [Recap & Review]

Hijack Ep. 4

Episode 4 of “Hijack” presents a calmer narrative compared to the intense drama of Episode 3. Despite all the unfolding events, the episode lowers the level of suspense and tension, which seems odd considering the series’ context.

Episode 5 [Recap & Review]

Hijack Ep. 5

In Episode 5, passengers on Flight KA29 are tantalizingly close to hope, almost within reach. A major plot twist reveals that Stuart and Lewis are brothers, and a fake emergency landing orchestrated by Sam is part of a larger tactic.

Episode 6 [Recap & Review]

Hijack Ep. 6

Things get increasingly complicated in Episode 6, as the passengers plan to retaliate against the hijackers. This hour marks a critical point in thwarting the still-mysterious hijacking plot. Meanwhile, a woman suddenly stands up, retrieves a gun from her bag in the restroom, and upon exiting, shockingly shoots the captain.

Episode 7 [Recap & Review]

Hijack Ep. 7

The final episode, Episode 7, introduces a new hijacker, Amanda Taunton, a flight consultant, who takes control of the cockpit. With the terrorists subdued, a greater problem emerges: a new hijacker locked in the cockpit, steering the plane into danger. Sam is convinced that the hijacking should have been over by now.

The True Story of Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks)

The True Story of Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) 

Tom Hanks, discussing his film Captain Phillips, remarked, “Certain elements were necessarily excluded from the book’s narrative. However, in terms of thematic fidelity, nothing significant was lost.” He further asserted, “Broadly speaking, the film’s portrayal is factually sound.” Is this claim justified?

Generally, yes. The film streamlines the Maersk Alabama hijacking episode, selectively excluding and modifying details while focusing intensely on the core events, as is typical of director Paul Greengrass’s style. This approach sometimes overlooks broader contextual elements. Interestingly, some of the film’s more astonishing elements are directly lifted from Richard Phillips’ detailed book, “A Captain’s Duty,” chronicling the Alabama incident.

Yet, the veracity of Phillips’ own narrative is subject to scrutiny. Numerous crew members of the Alabama, some engaged in legal action against the ship’s owners, argue that Phillips’ depiction is misleading. They allege that Phillips neglected pirate warnings and ventured perilously close to the Somali coast. Crew member ATM asserted that he warned Phillips about the pirate threat, only to be dismissed with skepticism. Phillips refutes these claims. A new documentary featuring Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, the lead hijacker portrayed in the film by Barkhad Abdi, suggests that his perspective remains untold.

Without having seen the documentary, this article mainly draws upon Phillips’ account and various news reports for information.

Prelude to the Hijacking

As depicted in the film, Phillips ignored advisories of nearby hijackings, maintaining a course 300-400 miles from the Somali coast to save time, despite warnings suggesting a 600-mile distance. Contrary to the film’s portrayal, Phillips informed his wife, Andrea, about the hijackings, as stated in his book.

The Initial Pirate Assault

Tom Hanks Is Better Than Ever in Captain Phillips

The initial, unsuccessful pirate attack in Phillips’ narrative aligns closely with Greengrass’s cinematic version. However, the Alabama was not conducting a pirate drill but a “fire and boat drill” at the time of the attack.

Phillips recounts contacting the United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO) about a possible piracy situation, only to be advised that the approaching boats were likely just fishermen. The detail in Phillips’ account where he feigns a radio communication with the U.S. military to deter the pirates is indeed accurate.

Seizure of the Ship

The film accurately captures the pirates’ successful second attempt to board the Alabama. Despite the crew’s defensive efforts, including fire hoses and evasive maneuvers, the pirates boarded the ship, mirroring Phillips’ account.

Much of the ensuing dialogue in the film is lifted directly from Phillips’ book. Phillips’ strategies to impede the pirates, including feigning misunderstanding and covertly informing his crew, are accurately portrayed.

Hostage Situation and Negotiations

The crew’s countermeasures, including taking Muse hostage, are largely factual. However, some film details, like the glass booby trap, are not mentioned in Phillips’ book. The crew managed to negotiate an exchange of Muse for Phillips, but the pirates reneged on the deal once Phillips was on their lifeboat.

Phillips, while lauded in media reports, does not consider himself a hero, contrasting with his portrayal in the film.

Captivity in the Lifeboat

Phillips’ real-life ordeal in the lifeboat lasted about five days, much longer than the film suggests. He recounts the tense atmosphere and the pirates’ claims of being forced into piracy, paralleling the film’s narrative.

The Climactic Standoff

The final confrontation, including Muse boarding the Bainbridge for negotiations and the subsequent Navy SEAL intervention, is portrayed with substantial accuracy. The Navy SEAL snipers, part of SEAL Team Six, eliminated the pirates in a coordinated strike.


Muse, tried as an adult, received a 33-year prison sentence. His age was a contentious issue during the trial. The final scene in the film, showing Phillips in shock, was improvised. Phillips’ book briefly describes his immediate post-rescue experiences, including a conversation with President Obama and his request for a beer.

If you’re looking for a similar cinematic experience about airplane hijacking, consider watching “Hijack.” This action thriller narrates the story of a former secret agent who finds himself in a precarious situation when the commercial flight he is on gets hijacked by a group of highly skilled terrorists. In his effort to confront these hijackers, the ex-agent must rely on his old skills and experience, and collaborate with other passengers trapped on the plane to navigate this perilous ordeal.