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Kidnapped (2011)

Cover art:

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Kidnapped
Starring Fernando Cayo, Ana Wagener, Manuela Vellés

Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas


A businessman awakens in the middle of a park, hands bound and struggling to breathe under the bloodied plastic bag secured over his head. Climbing to his feet, he sets off and frantically staggers into the path of an oncoming car. His face uncovered by the shocked motorist, the man immediately demands the driver make a phone call and hold the cell by his ear. He begs the girl on the other end, whatever she does, not to let anyone in the house. Her reply comes surprisingly calmly:

“Dad… they’re here. They shot mom.”

And so begins Miguel Ángel Vivas’ home invasion shocker Kidnapped. With that initial scene merely setting the tone for what is to follow, the focus immediately switches to family man Jaime (Cayo), his wife Marta (Wagener) and their teenage daughter Isa (Vellés) as they prepare to spend the first night at their grand new home in Madrid. In the midst of unpacking and preparing for dinner, Isa argues with her parents over wanting to attend a party that evening. Her mother, however, is dead set on them having a family night in to celebrate the move.

Unfortunately for her, the situation gets a lot worse than just being given the brush-off by her daughter when three masked men force their way into the house, bundle the family into the living room, and begin demanding valuables under threat of violence. After obtaining all of the family’s credit cards and ATM numbers, the gang’s leader takes patriarch Jaime off for a drive around town to empty the cards of their cash limits while the remaining two villains keep an eye on Isa and Marta. Events quickly escalate as various internal and external factors intrude upon the attempted robbery, leading to a gradually worsening visitation of pain, suffering and sheer brutality upon the innocent family.

So far, so standard in terms of home invasion flicks, but this is no Funny Games, The Strangers or Cherry Tree Lane. In terms of effect on the viewer, and the ultra-realistic display of inescapable horror forced upon the undeserving, Vivas’ Kidnapped is in a league of its own. Formed of a mere 12 continuous shots for the entire runtime, it’s an intimately constructed technical success – meticulous camerawork and perfectly employed split-screen presentation ramp up the immersion and ratchet the tension to near unbearable levels. One split-screen scene involving an escape attempt on one side of a door, and the beating of Isa’s visiting boyfriend on the other, is particularly impressive. The family are well presented and effortlessly sympathetic, even when some pretty stupid decisions are made, and Vivas also makes legitimate characters of his villains — throwing in a conscientious member of the invading gang and ably realising the ringleader as a cold, calculating, but not needlessly sadistic individual. Doing so prevents Kidnapped from being nothing more than a gallery of terrors or show reel of shock set pieces with no further worth.

Kidnapped is best approached with as little knowledge of what actually unfolds as possible so this will be kept brief. While, in terms of narrative developments, the Jaime-focused sections of the final act almost exactly mirror the events in Darren Lynn Bousman’s more-than-capable Mother’s Day, the events elsewhere will have audiences gasping with shock. Make no bones about it — this seemingly simple robbery descends into a cacophony of feral madness and a one-way trip to the extremities of human horror. Vivas isn’t out to take any prisoners, and the final twenty minutes of Kidnapped will leave you feeling shaken, battered and abused. This is the most genuinely horrific film of the year: It’s cruel, savage and pitiless – but never particularly dishonest, featuring some horrendously authentic violence (and a face-smashing scene to rival Irreversible), and while the final scene may feel a little too manufactured for shock value, the impact cannot be denied. When the credits begin, you’re apt to feel like you’ve just been hit with a sledgehammer so if you’re running on a schedule, factor in an extra five minutes for the stunned silence while your faculties restore. You’ll need it.

4 1/2 out of 5

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Gareth Jones