By Jonathan Stryker

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Source: Jonathan Stryker

Dec 4, 2011, 12:0 PM

The aptly-titled KIDNAPPED is the most harrowing film I have ever seen.  From the first frame we are in the hands of someone who wants to hurt us, to toy with us, and put us in the shoes of the family that becomes the unwitting victim of unabashed greed.  Filmed in extremely uncomfortable long takes and often in master shots which effectively heighten the tension and increase the realism, KIDNAPPED, known in its native Spain as SECUESTRADOS, unfolds like a newspaper headline.  At times riveting and at other times maddening, KIDNAPPED is the latest in a sub-genre of films that want to push the audience to the limit.  The filmmakers almost seem to be taunting, "How much of this can you take?" 


Like most films of this ilk, you either love it or you hate it; there generally doesn't seem to be anywhere in-between.  A group of home movers are finishing up settling Jamie (Fernando Cayo), Marta (Ana Wagener) and their 23 year-old daughter Isa (Manuela Velles) into a sprawling new home.  Isa is pestering her mother to let her go out with her boyfriend Cesar (Xoel Yanez), but Marta insists that they all celebrate their first evening together in their new house by having dinner and champagne together.  Later that night, the bickering becomes more intense and we almost feel that we are eavesdropping on someone's conversation that should be private.  Jamie, on the other hand, insouciantly brushes off Marta's protests and feels that Isa should go out if she wants.  Marta resents this, and in the midst of a heated debate three men wearing black from head to toe break into their home and demand their credit cards and personal identification numbers (the house is completely unsafe as there are more windows than there are walls). 

Although the ring leader (Dritan Biba) appears to be calm and level-headed, the biggest and brashest of the three (Martijn Kuiper) is the most nefarious of the group as he threatens and generally pushes the women around the house, ordering them to keep quiet.  Meneer Kuiper, from Amsterdam, creates a convincing portrait of a dangerous scumbag whose face you literally want to reach through the screen and smash until there is nothing left of it, especially following his brazen rape of Isa.  Guillermo Barrientos plays the third robber, who also happens to be one of the movers.    

Meanwhile, the ring leader goes with Jamie to an ATM and tells him to withdraw money.  Jamie is warned that if he attempts to escape or signal another person for help, his family will be killed. 

Despite this, he attempts to ask a woman at the ATM to call the police.  Thinking she is being robbed, she becomes distraught and hurls her cell phone at him, running off. 

Things go from bad to worse back at the house as Isa's boyfriend shows up and becomes part of the kidnapping ploy.  To reveal any further plot points would ruin the effect of the film.   

Director Miguel Angel Vivas takes the premise behind Michael Haneke's FUNNY GAMES (1997 & 2007) and to a certain extent Paul Andrew Williams' CHERRY TREE LANE (2010) and turns it up to eleven (in the former the perpetrators are a duo, and in the latter the ring leader of three terrorists know their victim and are out for blood due to a slight that is never explained).  I hate to use the phrase "edge of your seat thriller" because it is almost as overused as the word "awesome" but I can say that this film is exactly that.  It gets your heart racing, and you will more than likely find yourself yelling at the characters on the screen.   

Expertly photographed and edited, there are instances that harken back to Brian De Palma's early works like SISTERS (1973), PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (1974), and CARRIE (1976) in its use of split-screen.   

What is truly amazing is how the cast and crew manage to move about the premises in long takes without every really getting into each other's way.  The actors are excellent and bring the audience into their plight. 

The DVD contains the film's trailer and a behind-the-scenes featurette. 

If you have a strong stomach, the film is available at Amazon.com. 



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