Hijack, a seven-episode thriller starring Idris Elba, follows in the footsteps of 24, recounting an airline hijacking on a flight from Dubai to London in real time. Of course, if the show was an accurate depiction of the current state of travel the first episode would just be an hour of buffering as your flight is delayed. Here, though, we get into the action immediately as an assortment of passengers board Kingdom 29, bound for Heathrow. By the end of the first episode—the series airs weekly through August—five of those passengers have taken the plane hostage and the crew on the ground is uncertain about what is happening.
The series, created, written and directed by George Kay and Jim Field Smith, relies on our collective love for Elba, who plays a first class passenger with a particular skill for business negotiation. He immediately inserts himself into the situation, getting perhaps more involved than the average sane passenger might in a real-life hijacking. But the rest of the ensemble cast match his energy, especially Archie Panjabi, who plays a counter terrorism officer trying to ascertain the level of threat. The episodes veer between the claustrophobia plane interior and the ground, both in Dubai and London, and the writers let the information trickle slowly enough to keep the tension.
Like on 24, there is a ticking clock omnipresent in the episodes. The flight time is seven hours, with each episode encompassing one hour of the journey, and Kingdom 29 appears to be on a collision course for central London. The action plays out as a series fairly realistic moments, including when a group of passengers decide to take down the hijackers early on in the flight. The shell-shocked passengers do what we would all likely do in a similar situation and many of their attempts to regain control or communicate with authorities are clever. What’s not realistic is how, over seven hours, none of them need to use the bathroom. Has anyone, especially a child or an old man, made it through an overseas flight without a toilet break? This particular plane is full of steel bladders, apparently.
In each episode, more details about the hijacking are revealed, including who is ultimately doing it and why. The writers have made the onboard hijackers British, which feels purposeful and pointed. We’ve seen enough movies and TV shows with Muslim terrorists—white English people can be just as dangerous and reckless. The cast, which also includes Christine Adams, Max Beesley, Eve Myles, Neil Maskell, Jasper Britton, Harry Michell, Aimee Kelly, Mohamed Elsandel and Ben Miles, is aptly diverse. It feels like the composition of an actual flight from Dubai to London, and those scrambling to help, which eventually include the British Home Secretary, feel similarly realistic.
As the story unfurls, though, not everything adds up. Questions linger after the final episode and it’s unclear if that’s purposeful. (Maybe a season two is in the works?) It’s a miracle Elba’s character doesn’t get himself shot for all the interfering he does in the hijackers’ plan, but the character is easy to root for. A cliff-hanger at the end of the penultimate episode is a great twist, although the finale has a few holes. Despite its missteps, however, Hijack is tension-filled and gripping, often putting the viewer on the edge of their seat. It’s stressful, although probably not as much as your upcoming summer vacation. This is far more entertaining and far less tedious than an actual seven-hour flight.
The first two episodes of ‘Hijack’ premiere on AppleTV+ on June 28.