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Kidnapped (Miguel Ángel Vivas, 2010)

Stripped down to its raw essentials, Miguel Ángel Vivas’ mean-spirited thriller Kidnapped wants to emphasize intensity over sympathy. Playing out over something like a dozen long takes, the film focuses on the ordeal of a well-to-do Spanish family who finds their home suddenly and violently invaded by a group of violent Eastern European thieves. Vivas turns his snuff film scenario into an opportunity for maximum sadism, exposing a particularly annoying group of victims to an endless series of tortures and humiliations. Although the home invasion genre is an especially simple but cruel type of film, made for audience members who like to squirm in discomfort, Kidnapped might cut too close to the bone for its own good. Its complete lack of character development or plotting beyond the initial setup quickly exposes the film for the depraved exercise that it is. The thinness with which the family has been conceived and the near total lack of personality on the part of the thugs makes Vivas’ torture device seem somewhat flimsier than it should and becomes an impediment to audience involvement.


Director Vivas attempts to bolster the reality effect here by filming in extended sequence shots. The climax of Kidnapped, in particular, plays out via split screen, over two extended takes that unfurl simultaneously and eventually merge in a moment of false catharsis. These scenes are the highlight of the film, to be sure, both in terms of filmmaking skill and storytelling chutzpah, but they set up a particularly cruel payoff for an audience who has spent a few hours suffering alongside this family of victims. The lack of moral reckoning in Kidnapped gives the film the feel of a horror movie, but what is on screen might be less thrilling than most horror fans would hope. The decision to shoot scenes in uninterrupted sequence shots means that most of the action here unfurls in real-time. This, when combined with the dearth of plot development, means that the extended midsection of the film becomes an uneventful waiting game, during which the audience has little to focus on but their anticipation of the family’s eventual attempts at retaliation. Until the jolts of the last reel come along, this supposedly intense story is actually something of a snooze. Vivas, by generally refusing to cut, imbues Kidnapped with more gory details than the average thriller. The narrative cost at which this verisimilitude comes, however, seems a touch too high.



Jeremy Heilman