Jul 11, 2011
A very timely French thriller by writer/director Lucas Belveaux, this gripping, intelligent film is about Stanislas Graff, a big French industrialist (the excellent Yvan Attal, husband of Charlotte Gainsbourg and my new crush), a major shareholder of a huge conglomerate, who gets kidnapped for money. He has a wife, two young daughters and a dog he adores and he lives in rarefied splendor in Paris. Once he is abducted, the dilemmas of paying the ransom and involving the police or not become entangled with the fact that his behavior prior to the kidnapping is not as pure and perfect as it should be for a man in his position. Sound familiar? He happens to be of those now ubiquitous, seemingly unimpeachable powerful men who tend to have a knack for taking secret risks. Pretty much everybody knows what goes on with him but, as long as their interests are protected, they look the other way. And so he is eerily and satisfyingly reminiscent of DSK. This movie was made in 2009, long before the DSK case, and I wonder if DSK saw it. In Graff's case, he doesn't do anything illegal. He loses a lot of his own money gambling and he has serial affairs. This is nobody's business until a 50 million euro ransom is demanded. And then everybody all of a sudden has qualms about him. The press pounces, the government winces and frets, the police meddles. We are dealing with the highest sphere of French society where big business is cozily in bed with politics and so this movie is less about the action film mechanics of a kidnapping, but about money, power and entitlement. At first I thought that Hollywood may want to look into the rights, but there's a hitch. Graff is not precisely a good guy. And if they want to make him into one, then they are going to ruin the movie. I've been crying in the wilderness about my despair and boredom with Hollywood's insistence in Arthurian heroic quests for every single movie, from thrillers to Pixar. Rapt is a perfect demonstration of a gripping thriller with no exaggerated heroics.
Belveaux is an actor as well and that may be why all the actors in this movie are excellent. Attal is incredible. When he is in captivity, one keeps waiting for him to exhibit what we always see in American movies, some amazing ingenuity for escape, or at least some cunning repartee with his captors. But he barely speaks. He is quiet, afraid, and totally obedient. He is realistically doing everything he can, which is to attempt no silly heroics, to preserve his life. For most of the movie, Attal is in non-verbal survival mode and he is transfixing. But later we see his real character, and the transformation is shocking. The movie has a great, controlled chase (no screeching tires, no explosions, no shootouts) a great twist, and while we are looking for culprits and conspiracies, Rapt is less interested in this than it is on the way people who only care about money, handle it, value it, negotiate it and gamble it. Rapt is clean, methodical and crisp: a very elegant fable about values and about the intoxicating power of money.