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'Kidnapped' Movie Review

About.com Rating 2.5 Star Rating


'Kidnapped' movie poster.
© IFC Midnight
With films like The Orphanage, The Devil's Backbone, The Others and Darkness, Spain has been one of the leading contributors of refined, supernatural cinematic scares over the past decade, but the graphic Kidnapped delves into the extreme, real-world fare that's been more the turf of neighboring France's new wave of horror in the 21st century. So, how does it stack up?

The Plot

Middle-aged couple Jaime (Fernando Cayo) and Marta (Ana Wagener) and their teenage daughter Isa (Manuela Vellés) are just settling into their lush new suburban Spanish home when plans for a quiet evening at home are shattered by unspeakable violence. Three men in ski masks barge into their house, rough them up and take the family hostage.

One man gathers their ATM cards and forces Jaime to drive him to a nearby bank to retrieve as much money as possible. The other two are left to guard the women until they return, but little goes as planned: unexpected visitors drop by the house, hostages try to escape and one of the captors goes bat-nuts haywire. It's enough to make a hard-working home invader reconsider his career path.

The End Result

Manuela Vellés in 'Kidnapped'.

Manuela Vellés in 'Kidnapped'.

© IFC Midnight
Kidnapped is a maddening film -- intentionally so. It strives to recreate the invasive, traumatic nature of a home invasion in unapologetic, hyper-realistic detail. The result is harrowing, anxious and equal parts fascinating and aggravating.

Director Miguel Ángel Vivas's style is immersive, utilizing a real-time format and unedited one-shot scenes that each extend for five or 10 minutes straight without a cut (two scenes sometimes playing simultaneously in split-screen). Although The Silent House received much more notoriety for its one-shot format, Kidnapped uses the gimmick more effectively to draw the audience in and put them in the shoes of the victims -- for better or worse.

For the viewer, this immersion translates into one long nerve ending of a movie. Some scenes deliver heart-pounding energy, while others drag on for an all-too-real realistic eternity of uninterrupted, incoherent sniveling and sobbing. It's an intriguing experiment that, as the violence and brutality build to a jarring climax, achieves what I can only assume is its intended reaction: repulsion. Kidnapped's effectiveness at creating such a visceral response is admirable, but it's also not entertaining.

Kidnapped shares some commonality with home invasion films Funny Games and The Strangers, but it lacks the avant-garde purposefulness of the former and the scary thrills of the latter. It feels like nihilism for the sake of nihilism, eschewing narrative artistry for an anarchistic thumbing of the nose at conventional storytelling. And yet, despite all of this, I'm glad I saw it. Its impact is palpable, which is more than you can say about most films. Script issues aside, it's done well enough that I would recommend it to genre fans with a taste for the morbid side of human nature.

The Skinny

  • Acting: C (Emotionally draining performances that at times devolve into overacting.)
  • Direction: B (Inventive hyper-realistic approach.)
  • Script: D+ (Unique but unpleasant and lacking in narrative purpose.)
  • Gore/Effects: B.(Brutal, shocking gore.)
  • Overall: C+ (Intriguing, polarizing, conflicting, affecting.)

Kidnapped is directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas and is not rated by the MPAA. Release date: June 17, 2011 (June 15 on demand).

Disclosure: The distributor provided free access to this movie for review purposes. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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