Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas
Written By: Javier García, Miguel Ángel Vivas
Kidnapped begins with an unsettling sequence in which a battered and bloody man, with his hands bound behind his back, staggers through the woods blinded by a plastic bag tied over his head. The shocking overture without a doubt grabs the audience attention right away, with an incredibly well executed long take. The man gasps and stumbles his way onto the side of the road where he is rescued from suffocation by a driver who nearly runs him over. As the title card appears, we know we are about to witness something technically astounding, but Kidnapped’s complete lack of character development or plotting beyond the initial setup exposes the film for what it is: A sadistic, unmotivated home-invasion flick.
Director Miguel Ángel Vivas’ home-invasion drama joins an increasingly growing sub genre populated by such hits as Funny Games, Panic Room, and The Strangers. While the film doesn’t add anything substantially new, fans should get a jolt out of Kidnapped, a harrowing real-time tale of an assault on a remote family home.
In many ways, Kidnapped has a lot in common with Haneke’s clever Funny Games, but where Haneke provoked the audience by keeping the violence off-screen, Kidnapped gleefully depicts it. Stripped down to its raw essentials, Kidnapped is a stylishly executed and ultra-realistic thriller. Haneke used his home-invasion scenario to explore the implications of screen violence and our responses to it. Vivas contribution to the all too familiar premise comes simply in his staging, and his focus is less on content than form.
Vivas borrows from Hitchcock’s Rope, telling his story in a series of long tracking shots, and keeping his edits to a minimum. Cinematographer Pedro J. Marquez’s winding camerawork keeps the action exceptionally mobile, following the characters in, out of and around the house. The many continuous tracking shots sustains an illusion of unfolding in real time, with scenes lasting a beat longer than normal to maximize the dread. There is something to admire about the cast’s exhausting performances, the blocking, the staging and good use of split-screens, simultaneously showing what’s happening in other rooms. Yes, Kidnapped is a technical exercise first and foremost, but one has to admire the craft.
Starting as a coldly realistic thriller, this film eventually loses its bearings. With no plot to speak of, no character development whatsoever, Kidnapped suffers mostly from familiarity: unexpected visitors, unnecessary rape, loss of cell signals, unsuccessful attempts of escape and the usual suspects of invaders: The brain in charge, the heartless doormat ready to explode, and the sympathetic flunkie who spoils the group’s scheme.
While there are mild touches of subversive humour, Kidnapped is a mean-spirited thriller, emphasizing intensity over sympathy. The pic contains crippling, extended acts of gratuitous violence yet, under the rawness of it all, is a film of brilliant technical achievement and unrivalled, unrelenting fierceness that is perhaps as close to reality as you can come, simply based on the wise decision of keeping it in real time.
But is that enough? Many will argue Kidnapped is simply an uneventful waiting game, during which the audience has little to do but wait for the family’s inevitable doom. But perhaps that is the point; to hold the audience hostage along with the victims. Horror films are supposed to terrify, and despite all it’s flaws Kidnapped drags you by your eyeballs, leaving a lasting impression, be it good or bad.
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