FIT 728x90 Film Society of Lincoln Center

Short Takes: Kidnapped

By Laura Kern

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(Miguel Ángel Vivas, Spain, 2010)

Kidnapped

While Saw and Hostel have spawned a never-ending supply of bad imitations, offspring of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (Them, The Strangers, Inside) have fared much better. Kidnapped, the latest contribution to the home-invasion subgenre, offers little innovation—it even opens with one of the Haneke film’s signature images, a victim with a bag over his head—yet it’s far better than it has any right to be. 

The film’s title is a bit deceptive, as its affluent characters aren’t so much kidnapped as held hostage in their new home on the night they move in. The introductory 15 minutes is enough time to familiarize the viewer with its ordinary family—a teenage girl and her two parents—before they are faced with an extraordinary situation, in the form of three masked Eastern European men (the bad guys of choice these days).

The action wanders away from the house only when one of the abductors takes Dad to the ATM to withdraw some cash. Otherwise the drama remains strictly confined indoors, intensified by handheld camerawork, in-your-face close-ups, and an inspired use of split screen—all staged allegedly in only 12 shots. The score is minimal but a recurrent soundtrack of hysterical screams and desperate cries for mercy amp up the anticipation—and eventual eruption—of raw violence that is thoroughly unsettling.

Next up for Vivas is a zombie apocalypse flick. Perhaps he can freshen up that played-to-death material as well.

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