Kidnap


Film Review |By Christian Tesfaye - Exclusive to Fortune



Kidnap is a tough flick to admire, especially when the whole reason for its existence is the protagonist's lack of a cellphone. Add to this one too many excruciatingly bad close-ups, and Christian Tesfaye awards 4 out of 10 stars.


The problem with most of today’s cinema is that it has never really gotten used to common contemporary components that make up 21st-century life, most specifically social media and the cell phone. Plots and sequences that could previously make sense have now become difficult to construct, as people, and thus characters, could just as easily wriggle out of them. Deus ex machina is not God anymore, or some inexplicable natural force, but technology.

A close parallel could be made with movies in the 1950’s and the rise of television. The 1940’s was the undeniable golden age of movies, especially in the United States, where theatre attendances hit an all-time high. But audiences started to fizzle away by the 50’s, not so unexpectedly, when people were given the opportunity to watch films from their homes.he problem with most of today’s cinema is that it has never really gotten used to common contemporary components that make up 21st-century life, most specifically social media and the cell phone. Plots and sequences that could previously make sense have now become difficult to construct, as people, and thus characters, could just as easily wriggle out of them. Deus ex machina is not God anymore, or some inexplicable natural force, but technology.

This was very hard for cinema to grapple with. Filmmakers did not know if whether they should completely disregard TV, pretend as if it did not exist, or construct characters and plots inspired and affected by it.

And if they did do the latter, would it not be a conflict of interest, would not it make TV more popular, and drive away audiences?

So, the first couple of decades for cinema after the commercialization of TV were somewhat awkward, especially if there were scenes that took place inside a house. Characters either did not have TVs or rarely turned them on. This was highly uncharacteristic because TVs changed both the physical interior design of houses and the psychological setup of people, especially the youth.

Similarly, Kidnap, the Halle Berry vehicle, is one movie that has a problem handling such a situation. While it has a good-old linear plot, and highly one-dimensional characters, which previously have not been very hard to swallow for the mainstream, the fact that the whole movie is predicated upon the lead character failing to acquire a cellphone makes it a bit a silly.

Berry plays Karla, a mother in the middle of a divorce who works as a waitress. One day, after an exhausting work day, she takes her child to a park for a carnival. She takes her eyes away from her son for a minute before she could not locate him.

After a panicked, blurred, couple of seconds, she spots her son being dragged into a car in the parking lot. Screaming she chases after her son, first on foot, and when she could not anymore, in a car, through a highway, through deserted towns and streets, until she could get him back.

Now, everyone must be thinking, why does she not just call the police, just explain that someone in this-and-this a car has kidnapped her son, and that she is following them?

The film makes it a point to explain, early on, that Karla, while chasing the kidnapper’s car, has lost her phone. Throughout the movie, we witness as she tries and fails to get some sort of cellphone. She simply does not seem to ever run into anyone with a cellphone, or find herself in places with a cell reception.

Kidnap is produced by Berry herself. More importantly, she has hired an unknown director (Luis Prieto) to helm the project, which means Berry is probably the real brains behind this movie.

The fact that she is in almost every shot should not be overlooked, essentially making the film a one (wo)man show. Such authoritarian attitude by Berry may have risen from her past experiences with movies which, well, almost all were bad.

Of the movies she has been involved with in the past couples of years, the only ones that are watchable are X-Men: Days of Future Past and Cloud Atlas. Unfortunately, she was far from the central figure in any of these films. Of the films where she was more central to are Movie 43, The Call and Dark Tide, among some of the worst films of the 2010’s.

Kidnap is better than the latter movies. There are some good scenes, like the opening, which takes place inside the diner Karla works for. It captures a certain essence of the confusion among crowds in a somewhat crowded setting, at least viscerally, if not acoustically, that Robert Altman was known for. Aside from this, the scene where her son is kidnapped is also good, especially as Karla holds onto the car as it drags her along an asphalt road.

But two scenes are not enough to make a film mediocre, let alone great.

There are way too many uncomfortable close-ups of Berry, who, although beautiful, even at 50, is exhausting. I prefer cinema when it regards characters from a reasonable distance. Settings are usually just as crucial as an actor’s facial expressions, or dialogue, if not more. Kidnap only gives us actors.

But what annoyed me most is the fact that the movie would not have been longer than a sitcom episode if Berry’s character has not dropped her phone. The plot point is not that Karla had her son kidnapped, as the movie’s trailer would have us believe, but that she could not make a call at the most crucial point in her life. They should have renamed the film, Kidnap: or Why you need more than one cellphone.



Published on Aug 20,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 904]


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