Rapt‘s opportune release, at a time when the media is buzzing about the adulterous personal lives of at least a few prominent politicians, may help the audience appeal for this elegant, though routine, thriller based on the 1978 kidnapping of Baron Edouard-Jean Empain. The film may be routine, but like its main character, the millionaire executive Stanislas Graff (Yvan Attal), it presents itself in a sleek suit and tie, carrying itself from the moment it enters the room with a steadfast gait that suggests there’s no dotted line it can’t get us to agree to sign. It’s a well-made thriller that, with its leisurely pace and total lack of gratuitous sex and violence, seems well-suited for those, perhaps older, filmgoers with a more modest sensibility who prefer refinement, or what resembles it, to the more American attributes of speed and coarseness.
Stanislas’s high-life is shown as a string of meetings that he never has time to sit all the way through (including breakfast with his wife and daughters), either because he has an appointment with the mistress in his secret bachelor pad or because his lofty position affords him a haughty detachment from ordinary affairs. After his kidnapping, the media uncovers his playboy lifestyle and his wife, Françoise Graff (Anne Cosigny), is shown, sunglasses on, the apartment where he met his girls on the side. There’s an acknowledgement that she knew something of this before, but being the wife of such a man, she couldn’t bring herself to do anything about it, at least not while the money was still good, something the film implies in one of its only attempts to understand the workings and motivations of its characters. It also turns out that he doesn’t have as much money as Françoise and the family thought, further upending Stanislas’s reputation. The damage being done here, besides a chopped-off finger to let the family know the kidnappers know price per pound, is to Stanislas’s public and private image, which in turn begins to quietly dampen the family’s eagerness to have him returned.
There’s a preciseness and polish to the way the characters are played in Rapt that makes the film resemble an expensive chess set—one of those that adorns a room and rarely gets used. The good-looking actor known as being Charlotte Gainsbourg’s real-life partner and the voice dubber for Tom Cruise in France, Attal here gives a restrained performance that seems to function similarly as those two pieces of trivia do in America, where he’s not as well known: They suggest that his presence is most notable when it’s hinted at.
Lucas Belvaux directs his script with a kind of sophistication that, to find an American counterpart, unexpectedly recalls James Toback’s When Will I Be Loved—a quality that Susanne Bier and Smuggler Films, who are slated to remake Rapt for American audiences, will be hard-pressed to reproduce. While it doesn’t really say much about men such as Stanislas, what happens in its last reel suggests a realness to his unemotional side, an unapologetic ruthlessness for his gambling and cheating despite any lessons the ordeal might have offered about how having affairs can damage not only your own life but hurt those around you. What Stanislas’s attitude seems to ultimately say is that he acted the way he did simply because his position in life allowed him to, and therefore he might do it again, and how his only regret is having been caught, which is a fairly simplistic, though not necessarily inaccurate, psychological reduction of how these men think and feel.