Fantastic Fest 2010: Miguel Angel Vivas' Spanish Thriller Kidnapped

September 28, 2010

Kidnapped Review

A feature length film told in a total of twelve, long-winding shots. That was the main parameter Spanish director Miguel Angel Vivas set before himself in making his newest horror-thriller film Kidnapped (also known as Secuestrados originally in Spanish). Telling a rather basic story within a somewhat basic setting is one way of handling this challenge, and that is precisely what Vivas has done with this film. Kidnapped, for all of its grand conceptual staging and near flawless execution, ends up failing to resonate as a narrative, and, unfortunately, Vivas underlying idea in the story he has set out to tell becomes a gimmick in the end.

A family of three, a father, wife, and daughter, are held captive in their lavish, Spanish home by three hooded men. The men are out for only one thing: money, and the leader takes the father on an ATM run to collect. As the night progresses, complications arise, and, eventually, the bubbling suspense boils over into brutal acts of violence.

Sadly, the concept Vivas has in store for the narrative far outweighs the story being told. It is a genius idea to create a film with minimal cuts. The Hitchcock and Bela Tarr feel of it all is undeniable. Kidnapped will likely have people flashing on Rope more than anything.

On top of this genius idea is the creative ways in which Vivas has to split his scenes apart. Granted, most of the scenes, especially the intense opening shot, are more than likely separate shots edited together to create the illusion of continuous flow. This idea is pulled off with staggering results, and Vivas is able to do more than just standard, medium shots on characters conversing about their present situation. POVs are incorporated, and the way they are handled are never questioned or look hokey. Split screens allow the audience two, different perspectives of one action, and our minds tell us we are watching cuts within an overall scene. It is our own gaze, where we are looking, that creates that feeling.

One split screen, by the way, is the triumphant peak of the film. It comes very near the end of the film, so what it pertains to should not and will not be discussed, but there is a very real feeling of awe in what is shown to us and how it is shown.

Vivas has the technical skills. That is absolutely undeniable. His work with the actors involved is equally solid, as everyone in the film gives their character the exact type of nuance needed. It would be interesting, extremely interesting truth be told, to see what he might have in store for a story that offers something a bit more convincingly twisty than what is offered with Kidnapped. His next film will now doubt be superbly shot, as Kidnapped is, but there is no denying how very little happened within it.

That is to be said for the first half of Kidnapped. Beyond the hostage-taking and the running to ATM machines to take out cash, it is a lot of the kidnappers telling the hostages not to mess with them, not to try anything, to only play by the rules and no one gets hurt. Naturally, as would occur in most instances of this situation in real life, they do play by those rules. Unfortunately, that does not a good suspense film make, and you keep waiting and waiting and waiting for someone, anyone, to pull the trigger on the gun you know is loaded, aimed, and poised to be fired.

That does happen. Don't think Kidnapped ends without a little, or maybe a whole lot, of bloodletting. Where it eventually goes is very intense and brutal. The final moments of Kidnapped will absolutely leave you with some of the more unnerving images of the year. It's just dissatisfying that there was so much straight road before those final left turns.

Kidnapped is a triumph in terms of style, concept, and execution. What Vivas has pulled off here with the way he tells his story is nothing short of brilliant. The story, however, cannot hold a flame to the bonfire the film conceptually deserves. It deserves a story with peaks, valleys, mountains and chasms, yet what we are given is a long stretch of open plain, a slight dip, then a the end of the world. It's bunched up at the end when it should be spread back out throughout the film's entirety. One day, Vivas will have a story to tell. He will come up with an idea and a narrative that deserves this level of commitment and execution. As it is, all he has is the medium, and, while Kidnapped takes that medium and pushes it to its very limits, it's all for naught in the ideas it portrays.

Jeremy's Fantastic Fest Rating: 5.5 out of 10

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1 Comment


sounds like one of those films you watch, and you REALLY want to love, and you REALLY want to be able to recommend it to all, but it just falls short and disapoints, despite all that you find in it to love. I might look to see it just for the style and techniques. Well crafted long shots are so hard to come by these days...

Dave13 on Sep 29, 2010

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