This gripping old-fashioned thriller benefits from a lean plot, a steady pace, and a solid ensemble led by Idris Elba

The Very Best


TV Show

United Kingdom
Aimee Kelly, Archie Panjabi, Ben Miles

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Sometimes, it really is best to stick with what you know.

What it's about

When a plane leaving Dubai for London is hijacked, the passengers scramble for safety, but no one is more determined (and effective) than Sam Nelson, a professional negotiator.

The take

The show’s premise is plain, but it’s also endlessly, edge-of-your-seat gripping. It’s steady and unhurried but never boring, and each episode, which represents an hour on the seven-hour flight, gives you a sliver of hope for the passengers, especially since they have pro-negotiator Sam Nelson (Idris Elba) on their side. Or do they? The show has fun playing with Sam as the anti-hero, but his heart is too big and golden to achieve that complexity. It also doesn’t bother to paint the hijackers as anything other than terrorists (at least not in the first few episodes screened for review). Instead, the show narrowly chases that mid-flight suspense, and it works. It successfully builds up to it with small but revealing moments. 

At the back of all the hubbub, there is also a running joke about what happens when you get stuck with the worst people you know. The passengers are characters you may be familiar with—the family with loud babies, the nosy seatmate forcing a chat, the lowkey racist eyeing everyone who doesn’t look like him—and it gets doubly entertaining to see them collaborate when they otherwise won’t.

What stands out

Elba is magnetic, but Hijack’s elegant simplicity is the real star of the show here. The pacing is brisk, the suspense is palpable; even though it moves like many hostage films and series past, its predictability never hurts its enjoyability. The structure almost feels like a throwback to a time when movies only had to rely on a solid plot and its star to move forward. But this isn’t to dismiss the show’s many side characters and back stories; in fact, they gel perfectly and seem to work toward the singular goal of fully engrossing us in its central dilemma, which is ultimately what every thriller should strive to do.

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