Hijack: release date, cast, plot, trailer, interview and all about the Idris Elba thriller series

Hijack on Apple TV+ stars Idris Elba as man taken hostage on a passenger flight.
Hijack on Apple TV+ stars Idris Elba as man taken hostage on a passenger flight. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Hijack on Apple TV Plus might get you worrying about any holiday flights you're taking this summer. But fear not as this thriller series stars Luther hero Idris Elba, who of course is no stranger to battling master criminals. In Hijack, he faces a race against time to prevent bloodshed. 

In the seven-part series, for which he also acts as executive producer, Idris Elba plays Sam Nelson, an accomplished negotiator in the business world. But when he finds himself on a plane that is taken hostage during a seven-hour flight to London, he must put his skills to the test to save the lives of his fellow travellers. 

Blindspot’s Archie Panjabi plays counter-terrorism officer Zahra Gahfoor, who is trying to manage the situation from the ground and becomes part of the investigation. The story is told in real-time, as those on board try to cope with their seven-hour ordeal.

"Hijack takes a fresh approach to a thriller and hostage situation," teases Idris Elba. "There's an amplified nature of having a ticking time bomb in a plane and what that does to human nature. Sam is not an action star or a cop. He has the gift of the gab."

Here's everything you need to know about the Apple TV Plus thriller Hijack...

Hijack release date

Hijack launches on Apple TV Plus on Wednesday June 28, 2023, with the first two episodes of the seven-part series shown on that day worldwide. The remaining five episodes are then released weekly on Wednesdays.

How to watch Hijack: stream the Idris Elba plane thriller show online

Is there a Hijack trailer?

Yes a Hijack trailer has now been released by Apple TV+ which starts off showing the characters, including Idris Elba's Sam Nelson, taking their seats for the six hour flight!  Lucky Sam is in first class it seems. All seems pretty normal. Then the mid-air terror begins. Take a look below..

Hijack plot

Hijack is is told in real-time and follows business professional Sam Nelson who is on-board a plane on a routine commercial flight from Dubai to London when it is taken over and the passengers held hostage by a gang of criminals.

When the hijackers storm the plane at the beginning of the opening double bill, some passengers want to confront the gang, while others are too terrified to look up from their seats. Sam, however, knows his best chance of getting home to see his family is winning the trust of lead hijacker Stuart (Neil Maskell). Sam manages to send a text message to his estranged wife Marsha in the seconds before the plane’s Wifi is deactivated. Alerted to the situation on board, Marsha asks her new partner, DI Daniel Farrell (Max Beesley), to pull some strings with his contacts, thus beginning a chain of events that sees counter-terrorism operative Zahra Gahfoor (Archie Panjabi) overseeing the unfolding crisis from the ground in London. 

Sam must use all his cunning and guile to save the lives of his fellow passengers, while investigators on the ground look for answers. But his high-risk strategy could backfire on them all. 

Hijack cast — Idris Elba on playing Sam Nelson

In Hijack, Idris Elba plays negotiator Sam Nelson. "Sam Nelson isn’t your usual action hero,’ explains Elba, 50. ‘We’ve seen plenty of films and TV shows where the main character is an army guy or an ex-cop, but we wanted to turn that genre on its head. Sam is just a man with a brain who thinks on his feet – but he’s just as scared as everyone else on that plane."

Each and every twist of the seven-hour flight is played out in real-time across the seven-part series, a device reminiscent of hit US series 24. "The format gives an amplified feel to the series,’ says Elba. ‘There are hundreds of scared passengers trapped on this plane, so it becomes a bit of a cauldron.’

"I’m a tall man with big shoulders so I get offered a lot of roles that are about brawn,’ Idris explains. "Usually, I play someone who’s quite handy with his fists, but Sam is quite vulnerable and sensitive. What he does have is a lot of guile and a unique sense of dynamics. He’s very good at figuring people out and manipulating them to get where he needs to be.

"As the plane crosses from one country’s airspace to another’s, different groups come into contact with the situation in the air. That becomes another focal point of the storytelling – it’s just as tense on the ground as it is on the plane.

"By design, we didn’t take this plane apart and make it easier for us to shoot. We designed all the action sequences with what we’ve got.Sam does a lot of sneaking around the plane, but me sneaking around is like, 'Bro, what are you doing? We can see you.' It meant I had to get even lower or figure out another way. Again, adds to the drama and reality of this thing."

London-born star Idris shared some particularly tense scenes with Neil Maskell, who plays lead hijacker Stuart, as the claustrophobic environment puts the relationship between their characters under the microscope. 

"Neil is so intense that you sometimes forget he’s acting when he’s in the moment," says Elba. "That was great from my perspective because he plays a character that is unravelling the whole time and my character gets to push his buttons. Every nuance is right there. It was an amazing acting experience."

* British star Idris Elba is best known for his long-running roles as John Luther in the hit series Luther plus its recent Netflix film, and Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell in The Wire. He played Nelson Mandela in the 2013 film Long Walk to Freedom and has also starred in Beast, Thor: Love and Thunder, The Suicide Squad, Cats and American Gangster. He’s also lent his voice to The Jungle Book, Zootropolis, Finding Dory, Sonic The Hedgehog and Zootopia+

Hijack on Apple TV+ stars Idris Elba.

Hijack star Idris Elba as passenger Sam Nelson. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 18:00:01 on 08/11/2015 - Programme Name: Luther - TX: n/a - Episode: Luther S4 (No. Generics) - Picture Shows: - (C) BBC - Photographer: Sarah Dunn

Idris Elba as John Luther. (Image credit: BBC/Sarah Dunn)

Archie Panjabi as Zahra Gahfoor 

Archie Panjabi plays Zahra, a counter-terrorism officer on the ground in Hijack. The Emmy award-winning actress played Kalinda Sharma in The Good Wife. She’s also starred in Bend it Like Beckham, The Constant Gardener, Grease Monkeys, Blindspot, Departure and Snowpiercer. Archie also lent her voice to the animated series Postman Pat

Archie Panjabi as Zahra Gahfoor in Hijack.

Archie Panjabi as Zahra Gahfoor in Hijack. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Who else is starring in Hijack? 

Hijack also stars Christine Adams, Max Beesley, Eve Myles (Torchwood, Keeping Faith) as an air traffic controller, Neil Maskell (Litvinenko) as hijacker Stuart, Jasper Britton, Harry Michell, Aimee Kelly, Mohamed Elsandel and Ben Miles are also starring in the series. 

* For a full lowdown on all the characters see below...

Max Beesley and Christine Adams in Hijack.

Max Beesley and Christine Adams as Daniel and Marsha in Hijack. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Eve Myles in Hijack.

Eve Myles as air hostess Alice in Hijack. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Who's Who in Hijack— a rundown of all the characters and actors who star

Sam Nelson
(Idris Elba)
The business negotiator is heading home to see his estranged wife Marsha and his son when his plane is hijacked. 

Stuart Atterton
(Neil Maskell)
The leader of a gang of hijackers is forced to accelerate his plans when a passenger gets suspicious after finding a bullet in the toilets.

Zahra Gahfoor
(Archie Panjabi)
The counter-terrorism operative closely monitors the flight’s progress and begins preparing a plan for the plane’s arrival at Heathrow

Marsha Smith-Nelson
(Christine Adams)
Sam’s estranged wife initially thinks he’s playing games when he sends her a message about a hijacking on his plane from Dubai. 

DI Daniel Farrell
(Max Beesley)
Marsha’s boyfriend is certain there’s something odd about Sam’s message and asks his old friend Zahra to look into it. 

Robin Allen
(Ben Miles)
The plane’s captain spots the hijackers and contacts Dubai air traffic control, but is forced to tell them it was a false alarm when they threaten his crew. 

Kate Phillips) 
The air hostess finds herself threatened at gunpoint as the hijackers try to gain access to the cockpit. 

Alice Sinclair
(Eve Myles)
The air traffic controller at Heathrow becomes suspicious after hearing about the strange radio message sent by the plane’s captain. 

Jamie Constantinou
(Aimee Kelly) 
The member of Stuart’s gang must subdue a couple of passengers who make a bid to take down the hijackers.

Behind the scenes, locations and more on Hijack

In the filming of Hijack, with so much action taking place on the plane, the production team built an entire fuselage for the five-month shoot at Symmetry Park Studios in the Buckinghamshire town of Aylesbury.

"‘It was a set that could hold three or four hundred people and we had that many people on set every single day,’ reveals Idris Elba. ‘It was intense because the shoot was long and we were all on top of each other. The supporting artists were incredible – every single actor on that plane had to keep up the tension for five months.’ 

Hijack has been created by George Kay (Criminal) and Jim Field Smith (Criminal, Truth Seekers), who also wrote and lead directed the series respectively. It's executive produced by SAG Award-winner and Emmy Award-nominee and the star of the thriller Idris Elba. 

It's produced by 60Forty Films, the production company set up by Emmy Award-winning Executive Producers Jamie Laurenson and Hakan Kousetta (Slow Horses, The Essex Serpent) under its exclusive content deal with Apple TV+, alongside Kay and FIeld-Smith’s own production company Idiotlamp Productions, and also marks the first series to debut from Elba’s first-look deal with Apple TV+ and his Green Door Pictures. 

* More top shows on Apple TV Plus are below...

Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus Whattowatch.com. I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.

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