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Kidnapped  (2011)
2 Stars
Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas.
Cast: Fernando Cayo, Manuela Vellés, Ana Wagener, Dritan Biba, Martijn Kuiper, Guillermo Barrientos, Xoel Yéñez, César Díaz.
2011 – 85 minutes
Not Rated (equivalent of an R for strong brutal bloody violence, drug use, language and sexual content).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, June 18, 2011.
Home invasion thrillers have become something of a hot commodity in recent years—brave viewers with a penchant for the macabre like to imagine how they might react if placed in a similar situation—and uncompromising, technically dazzling Spanish thriller "Kidnapped" joins the esteemed ranks of 2007's "Them," 2008's "The Strangers," and 2008's "Funny Games" (the latter an effective shot-for-shot remake of Michel Haneke's 1997 original). The impressive directorial debut of Miguel Ángel Vivas, the film bravely unravels in just eleven extended shots, cinematographer Pedro J. Márquez's camera free-floating around its locations as it observes characters in a fight for their very lives. Aside from this interesting conceit, there is nothing particularly new about "Kidnapped," which is straight-forward and minimalist in its storytelling. Though frightening at times and tough to take, the film is also pointless. Therein lies its very purpose, however. When tragic, violent crimes occur, especially of this nature where the sanctity of one's own private space is breached, there often aren't easy answers or a concrete reason. "Why did you pick us?" patriarch Jaime (Fernando Cayo) asks one of his captors. He doesn't receive an answer, but it's clear all the same: they simply were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Jaime and his family—nagging wife Marta (Ana Wagener) and their typically manipulative teenage daughter Isa (Manuela Vellés)—have no sooner moved into a spacious new gated home in the Madrid suburbs when three masked men (Dritan Biba, Martijn Kuiper, Guillermo Barrientos) literally crash through their window and proceed to hold them hostage. It looks like they are solely on the hunt for money, but when Jaime is taken to withdraw the maximum amount from all of their credit cards, it becomes increasingly apparent that this isn't going to be some quick, over-and-done operation. As Jaime tries to decide what his next move will be, Marta and Isa navigate the dire situation back at the house. The choice to physically fight back will prove to either be their key to survival or their signed death warrants.

The protagonists in "Kidnapped" are set up honestly, but not endearingly. Marta harps on her daughter and husband, while Isa uses her father to defy her mother's wishes that she stay home on their first night in their new home rather than go out on a date. Flawed from the get-go, the viewer instantly rallies behind them the instant their lives are in danger despite the vague suggestion, whether intentional or not, that they somehow deserve what comes to them. At least a couple of the aforementioned pictures about house intruders are superior in their views of humanity and psychological harm, but if "Kidnapped" is more a grim, crafty exercise rather than anything deeper, it still delivers the desired impact. The final long shot especially plays like a sucker punch straight to the heart, harrowing on a level few cinematic endeavors ever manage to reach. "Kidnapped" doesn't tell you anything you didn't already know, but it sure is engrossing. It knows exactly what it's doing.
© 2011 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman