Bleak and relentlessly unpleasant, the Spanish film "Kidnapped" (Secuestrados) by Miguel Angel Vivas is a familiar, yet well orchestrated, take on the home invasion drama. Voyeuristic camera work and interesting split screen sequences invite (or demand) the viewer to partake of the humiliations wrought upon a typical family by a trio of masked marauders. It's a relatively unflinching look at violence that some might equate (with reason) to the genre of torture porn that is so popular these days, although it is nowhere near as graphic as other examples. Two comparison points that leapt immediately to mind were Haneke's "Funny Games" and "The Strangers." "Kidnapped" manages to make the most of its uncomfortable situations by staging them in a very realistic way. As such, with this description, you will automatically know if this film is for you or not depending on your interest in this type of genre. I will say, however, this is a tense and exceedingly well acted nightmare.
The movie starts with a terrific and chilling segment that has almost no relationship to the rest of the film. Soon, however, we are introduced to Jaime and Marta--an affluent couple moving into a new suburban estate with their teenage daughter. Fernando Cayo is excellent as the harried father, and Ana Wagener is quite effective as the stressed-out mother. The family is experiencing typical middle class woes. Daughter Isa (Manuela Velles) wants to go out with friends, mama wants a family celebration. In the midst of routine family discord, however, all heck breaks loose as three men storm the home. Motivated by money, one of the intruders take Jaime off to empty ATM accounts while the other two stand watch over the women. Before the night is through, the tension and violence continues to escalate. I can't really go beyond that as the drama needs to unfold at its own pace, but things become spectacularly brutal.
Again, while I admired much about the film (especially the performances)--I just wish it hadn't played to so many expected conventions. The assailants aren't fully formed characters, but you've certainly seen their types before--the rational tactician, the hot headed powder keg and the conflicted guy over his head. The director, in painting the realism of the situation, relies on a lot of long stagnant camera takes. And while yes, that does make for a gritty impersonal feel, it also distances us from the victims as well. The ending itself may be a love-it or hate-it proposition, but it definitely stays true to the feel of the picture. "Kidnapped" is not fun or nice or pleasant, but it is strong filmmaking. While I feel that this plot has been utilized in countless other movies, it still works here in a very unsettling and effective way. KGHarris, 11/11.