Rather than offer some brief thoughts for my top 10 list, I thought I’d republish my full review from during the 2010 Seattle Film Festival of one of my favorite films of the year, now available on Netflix Watch Instantly and DVD and Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
Lucas Belvaux’s “Rapt” could hardly seem more timely, tapping into the zeitgeist of the public’s heightened outrage at powerful businessmen while retaining the timeless intrigue of the very best thrillers. The Belgian Belvaux is a largely unknown filmmaker in America, perhaps better known as an actor in such films as the Oscar-nominated “Joyeux Noël” than his ambitious “Trilogy” as a director, using three films of different genres (comedy, melodrama and thriller) to tell the story of an escaped convict whose post-prison exploits cause ripples in the lives that he touches. That shifting focus is also central to “Rapt,” though Belvaux has clearly fine-tuned his methods for a shorter running time and more striking results.
Here, Yvan Attal stars as Stanislaw Graff, a French industrialist with government ties who lives at the top of the world until he is taken hostage by a group of rogue kidnappers and while he sits inside a guarded tent, deprived of food and shorn of his index finger for a ransom demand, his world falls apart outside as his family, his company and the local authorities debate the merits of giving in to the kidnappers as growing revelations about Graff’s private life come to light. The film is a nailbiter to be sure, made even more evident when one of Graff’s colleagues identifies the finger that’s sent to the family by its chewed cuticle. But it’s also an uncommonly well-observed character study of Graff, whom we learn little about, other than a penchant for gambling and an interest in privacy, before he is taken. It’s not only a surprise to the family, but the audience as well that the arrogance that served him well as a businessman led to more trouble than the €5,000 gambling debt we see him paying off in the opening minutes and worse, the damage it does to his image as the chief of a publicly traded company.
Details on Graff’s captors remain scarce, yet they’re largely irrelevant besides the fact that they’re asking for money Graff simply doesn’t have and they’re always one step ahead of the Graff’s negotiating team. There is far more to be learned from the reactions of Graff’s wife (Anne Consigny), his domineering mother (Françoise Fabian) who is less concerned with the fate of her son than the family’s fortune, and Graff’s longtime number two at the company (Andre Marcon) who seizes upon the unfortunate situation to solidify his own standing and keep the corporation above the truly treacherous business of involving itself in emotional affairs. Belvaux is equally restrained in depicting the aftermath of the kidnapping — the only tears shed are by Graff’s teenage daughters and not necessarily because their father is being tortured — making “Rapt” as intellectually satisfying as it is dramatically, and goes one step further when the resolution of one story allows the room for another, far more complex one to take hold. For a film that’s so steeped in our relationship with acquiring wealth, “Rapt”’s greatest quality is that it’s richly told.