Hijack is a high-octane British thriller that ranks among the best shows on Apple TV+. It’s about a plane that takes off for a seven-hour journey from Dubai to London. But things take a turn for the worst when a group of hijackers wielding guns reveal themselves. No one needs to get hurt, but things are going to be hairy until they land. Sam (Idris Elba), a talented business negotiator aboard the flight, finds that he can use his boardroom skills to try and keep the peace. Or so he thinks.
The story is told in a similar real-time fashion to the popular series 24, with each of the seven episodes covering an hour, minute by minute. We see what’s going on in the plane while simultaneously following law enforcement and political officers on the ground trying to figure out what, if anything, is happening and how to stop it.
Sam boards a plane from Dubai to London with hopes of reconciling with his ex Marsha (Christine Adams), a necklace in his bag as some kind of peace offering. She has clearly moved on with another man named Daniel (Max Beesley), but Sam is confident he can get her back.
Everything seems fine until hijackers declare themselves, terrifying passengers with threats of murder and mayhem if they don’t comply. The 200+ passengers, including men, women, children, and the elderly, don’t know what to do. The wheels are turning with Sam, however, and he puts a plan in motion. He tries to befriend the hijackers, playing nice and even agreeing to comply with their plans. The hijackers’ motives, however, are still unknown.
When the hijackers threaten the pilot Robin (Ben Miles) with murdering his flight attendant mistress Collette (Kate Phillips), he agrees to leave the cockpit. However, he switches the dial ever so slightly to indicate to air traffic controllers back home that there’s something wrong. Alice (Eve Myles), the controller assigned to monitor that flight, recognizes the signal as one that was implemented after 9-11 to suggest that there’s an issue on board. She gets to work trying to convince others that a distress call that came in earlier and was later canceled might be the sign of a legitimate terrorist threat after all.
Things escalate quickly when one particularly angered hijacker refuses to allow a young man to get his uncle’s diabetes medication. His traveling partner steals a small knife from the medical kit. During a fracas, a young woman is accidentally killed and young hijacker Lewis (Jack McMullen) is stabbed.
Sam tries to help Lewis, offering to call his mother while the others search for a doctor on board. Before dialing the mother’s phone number, however, Sam secretly calls his ex and lets the phone record his conversation, purposely revealing key details about what’s going on. He ends the call and deletes the history. But he has now given the ground confirmation that the plane is under attack.
Those on the ground, including Zahar (Departure’s Archie Panjabi), also now understand why the hijacking is happening when a politician receives a letter with demands. The hijackers, part of a large criminal organization, want a criminal released from prison before they land. If he isn’t, they will kill people on board. After some boardroom discussions, the man is released. But when the criminal realizes he is being followed, he orders the hijackers to kill someone and send photographic proof.
Sam, seemingly always there at the right time, convinces the hijackers to take a photo of the woman who was already killed. They agree, but he knows another kill order is going to come soon. Sam delivers a secret message to the passengers through an empty drink carton, suggesting they need to be ready to fight back. The situation has become dire and they’re now racing against time.
As everyone secretly grabs items they can use for battle, from a hairpin to a headphones cord, the suspected order for another kill comes in. The hijackers scream and yell, trying to decide who should be their next victim. Just then, an older woman, Amanda (Holly Aird), who has been sitting quietly in her seat up until that point, gets up and goes to the bathroom. She puts her hair up and pulls a gun out of her purse. She casually walks out, holds up the gun, shoots the pilot, and heads into the cockpit.
The hijackers, who seem anything but pros, are amateur parts of a much larger plot. There was a major stock trade relating to the airline in question prior to the flight. With the stock dropping exponentially from news of the hijacking, which was planted by the criminals who set it up, it’s apparently all part of a “bear trade.” Hijack the plane, leak the news to the media, watch the shares fall, and bet the other way. The best-case scenario for the hijackers is for the plane to crash. And it’s headed in that direction, literally. Amanda has rerouted the plane to the center of London.
In a last-ditch effort to save everyone, Sam grabs the only loaded gun from one of the hijackers and reveals to the others that he knows the others aren’t loaded. It’s game over. The hijackers are no longer in control. But Amanda is still flying the plane. Sam now has to truly put his negotiating skills to the test.
He pleads with Amanda, who used to be in the Navy, to land the plane safely. Through cell phones now returned to passengers, they learn she has a daughter. Sam uses this to finally get through to the clearly torn woman. She reveals she was threatened with the life of her family if she didn’t comply. She must wait for a phone message. If it arrives, the deal is done and she can land. If it doesn’t (and it won’t since one of the two released criminals kills the other before he’s able to send it), crash the plane.
With military planes surrounding them, everyone on the ground is wrestling with a difficult decision. Shoot down the plane, killing everyone in it to prevent a crash in the city center, or hope it will land safely.
Sam gets to work with his quick thinking, advising Amanda that it’s likely the hijackers are going to kill her daughter regardless. On the phone with air traffic control, he negotiates a deal for Amanda to be spared from jail time for shooting the pilot if she lands safely. But the plane is also almost out of fuel and there’s nowhere to land.
Keeping her cool, calm, and collected demeanor, Alice finds a short runway and helps talk Amanda through landing. Amanda enlists Sam’s help, and while the landing is anything but smooth, everyone comes out alive.
All seems well until Sam re-enters the airplane to grab that necklace he bought for Marsha and encounters Stuart (Neil Maskell), one of the hijackers who is still inside. He has managed to escape from his shackles and has the loaded gun. A short chase ensues until the military makes their way inside, forcing Stuart to the ground in surrender. “Say cheese,” Sam remarks to the man who had earlier said the same thing to him when wielding a gun to his head and threatening his life. It was a beautifully karmic moment and a fitting end to the intense ride.
The story in Hijack has come to an end, but there’s still a possibility for the concept to continue with Sam or other characters. There has not been an official announcement yet for a second season.
Stream Hijack on Apple TV+.
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