Just enough of the recent high-profile thriller from Apple TV recommends him, even if he never quite reaches the heights he should with his premise and captivating lead actor. Idris Elba has had a fascinating career, as he has the charisma on the screen to be a movie star, and yet his most popular roles remain on the small screen (“the Wire”, “Luther”). Here, despite strong supporting cast members, it uses each piece of this magnetism in a way that is almost detrimental to the project, as it loses some of its height every time it is not centered. I moved away from “Hijack” thinking Elba could easily wear an action show like “24”-an obvious inspiration for this real-time thriller – but I’d rather see him kick ass on the big screen in a “John Wick”-like franchise. The fact that I started to unpack the star’s career in the seven chapters of “Hijack” is a little indicative of the quality of the thrill here in a consistently interesting, but never as gripping show as it should be, especially because of the number of characters she is trying to get on this overbooked flight.
Written by George Kay (the most recent Netflix adaptation of “Lupin”) and directed by Jim Field Smith (“Butter”), “Hijack” begins with the last passengers boarding a seven-hour flight from Dubai to London. One of the last people on board is Sam Nelson (Elba), who exchanges a few texts with his ex-partner that make it clear that things are a bit difficult on the home front. She even tries to encourage him not to come to London. He ignores this instruction and finds himself on a flight from hell when five hijackers overtake the trip. Led by a stoic man named Stuart (an excellent Neil Maskell), the kidnappers seem to have a highly coordinated plan, including a way to emotionally manipulate their way in the cockpit, although Kay is used to analyzing information in a frustrating way. For some episodes, it is not even clear what the hijackers’ intentions are or what they are trying to achieve (a folder called “Requests” appears more than half of the series), which in theory could cause tension by making us feel like confused passengers on the plane, but the series so consistently leaves the ship that it becomes a mean trick.
Instead of locking us in our seats with Sam and the other hijacked passengers, “Hijack” jumps to the UK to involve the people who will try to stop a disaster on the ground. The great “Torchwood” star Eve Myles plays Alice Sinclair, one of the air traffic controllers, who for the first time understands the seriousness of what is happening during the flight.Myles gives an intelligent, straightforward performance, often the voice of reason, which enlightens the stakes of any escalation of the situation-usually it would be logical to pull the plane out of the sky. A big part of “Hijack” is that Sam is trying to reduce the use of kidnapping so that it doesn’t take place, which makes it one of Elba’s most interesting writings and performances. If the British government-or the Hungarian government they’re flying over-doubtfuls they might have another 9/11 on their hands, they won’t hesitate to finish everyone on board. Elba shows how the background of his character as a business negotiator makes him aware that sometimes he has to give in to his executioners to keep everyone calm.
Sam and Alice are not the only ones on guard, while the Minister of the Interior and other British rulers are debating what to do with an uncontrolled plane flying to one of the largest cities in the world. These scenes are politically admirable, but it is counterintuitive to “hijack” them by reducing the tension every time we get off the plane. Likewise, Neil Maskell is solid as a cop who gets deeply involved in the matter because he already has a connection with Sam, but also his bow serves to overload more than anything else. “Hijack” undoubtedly works better if it was Elba vs. Maskell and I wanted more juicy scenes between the two actors instead of subplots about what was going on on the playing field.