Published on July 6th, 2011 | by Carlos J. Segura0
Hitting the big screen in time to ride the tide of scandal that’s come about in the wake of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair comes Belgium’s Lucas Belvaux, best known to art house audiences in America for his high, yet not too high, concept Trilogie. For the unfamiliar the films all shared a group of characters with each film in the trilogy featuring one or two characters as leads while the others would make appearances in each other’s films as supporting characters. To round off the concept each film would be told in the structure of accessible genres: comedy, thriller and melodrama. For this latest film, “Rapt,” Belvaux has opted to return to the trappings of the thriller, though, there is a touch of the melodramatic but barely enough to qualify it as a hyphenated genre film with a capital g.
“Rapt,” based on the real kidnapping of a French industrialist known as Baron Edouard-Jean Empain in 1978, transposes the story to the present day and has renamed the industrialist Stanislas Graff (Yvan Attal), a handsome, bullet train of a man. In the first 6 minutes of the film we see Graff shuttle between his work, family, mistress, and gambling until finally ending up in the hands of his mysterious kidnappers. The demand: 50 million euros or Graff dies. And if the death threat didn’t serve to make the point clear enough they immediately cut off one of Graff’s fingers and it is promptly sent to the folks responsible for his supposed future liberty. To complicate matters the law and Graff’s family discover that Graff maintained a separate and no-expense-spared lifestyle of gambling and marital cheating, complete with his own secret pad. These details make their way into the media and suddenly sympathy for Graff, and by extension his worth as a ransom victim, drops among his colleagues and even his family. However, despite the emotional and professional turmoil the law proceeds with attempts to get Graff back.
So what subgenre does “Rapt” fall under exactly? Well, if one had to pick perhaps labeling it a crime thriller makes most sense considering how much screen time is devoted to the process of the law trying to get Graff back, plus scenes of a weary Graff being bullied or confronted by captors. Be warned that as a crime thriller it is often flat; much of the visual work is standard television lighting and framing, despite the widescreen, though, even most crime shows these days try much harder than this film does to go after any kind of an interesting look. To mount onto the bland coverage there are no memorable folks on the right, or even wrong, side of the law save for perhaps Alex Descas as Graff’s attorney, last seen as the noble and loving father in “35 Rhums,” though, even he isn’t given enough consistent screen time to lend support. The only other supporting character that comes close to giving the film any kind of lift is Francoise Fabian as Graff’s mother. Ironic considering that her character often acts, knowingly, “cold and direct.” Yet, from her come focused and concentrated declarations amidst the placid crust of her upper crust bearing. The bulk of the screen time goes to Anne Consigny as Graff’s wife, Francoise. Thankfully she’s not as trying as she was in “A Christmas Tale” and that in itself makes her appearance here a success.
Still, even the sections of family discord brought about by the revelations of Graff’s dalliances with vice lack resonance because they’re too cut and spaced out to snowball into anything. Worst of all is the way Graff’s character is handled. When in captivity he hardly talks or makes a face, though, it is understandable why he would be so poker faced. But aside from encounters with his captors little time is given to Graff, too. Once we’re allowed to observe him liberally in the last half hour of the film it is too little that comes much too late. “Rapt” plays like a threadbare version of a story that had enough going for it to spin off into 2 or 3 other movies. Quick and straight to the point with the facts but it plays very little with any of the potential from so many possibilities among its story strands. It barely follows the discontent among the public with Graff, which would have been interesting, and it doesn’t seem interested enough in how his family grapples with having the rug pulled out from under them. Graff is oblique at best and abstract and symbolic at worst. He could stand in easily for any number of fat cats and to make matters worst is that Attal showcases a performance talent that, without being a ham at all, somehow would have benefited the film had he been given more of the running time to develop a presence before wrapping things up. “Rapt” you are not because unfocused it is.