The Hijacker Who Vanished

Rating 8.7
Streamer BBC iPlayer
Seasons 1
Episodes 1 x 90 mins

People have been going absolutely mad for the mind-boggling stories of Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries, and it seems the Beeb want in on the action – they’ve whipped up this whirlwind film, about The Hijacker Who Vanished.

And let us tell you, it’s worth every penny of your TV licence money. We’ll set the scene: It’s November 1971, and a Portland Oregon a passenger plane – filled with flared trousers and outrageously loud shirts – takes off on its regular, hour long journey to nearby Seattle. Then, just like a dodgy Liam Neeson film, a man claiming to have a bomb in his suitcase hijacks the plane, and demands $200,000 ransom. Surprisingly, the plane lands safely and all the passengers disembark unharmed.

The money is passed over, and the plane once again takes off. Here’s where it gets wild: whilst flying over treacherous Oregon terrain on a dark and stormy evening, our hijacker parachuted out, into the night, never to be seen again. If that doesn’t sound like a John Buchan novel we don’t know what does. The show interviews various people who claim to know whodunit, saying they overheard plans, or heard confessions, and honestly, all of them seem possible. But the most convincing tale comes from Jo Weber, who says her husband Duane on his deathbed confessed, “I’m Dan Cooper.” Dun dun duuun!

The critics have lapped this one up. Anita Singh in The Telegraph says it’s “a documentary that couldn’t fail to entertain,” as “the case is one of those delicious, stranger-than-fiction mysteries.” The Guardian’s Rebecca Nicholson says the film is equally about the mystery and human nature itself, saying “these brilliant characters, some deeply entangled in the story, some distant from it but connected, are believers. This film asks what keeps them believing, and it is a far bigger question than the mystery itself.” The Times’ Carol Midgely agrees, saying “What was striking was how desperately each party believed that they knew the real Cooper.”

First shown November 2020.

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