Sprinting ahead with an urgency that belies its remarkable attention to detail, writer-director Lucas Belvaux’s taut political thriller Rapt is a top-heavy but exceptional action film. Emulating Costa-Gavras’s Z, Belvaux relates the emotional impact of the kidnapping and ransoming of wealthy industrialist Stanislas Graff (Yvan Attal) on Graff, his associates, and his family with the loutish grace of a skilled sports commentator. Everything, from the emotional breakdowns his wife and daughters suffer to heated arguments held between the shareholders of Graff’s company about whether they should pay his ransom or not, boils down to cold, hard information.
Belvaux has stripped down the film’s procedural plot to its bare essentials, feeding the viewer’s need to know the mechanics of how every decision in Graff’s case is made: who has doubts and who doesn’t, what role the police have in the case, where he’s being held, what’s happening while he’s away. Every scene is filmed with a grim and assured determination, as if each one were loaded with vital information just waiting to be decoded.
This makes the film’s indomitable momentum the key thing, not sympathy for the characters beyond but the roles that the ransom situation requires of them. Scenes where Francoise Graff (Anne Consigny) cracks up after the press uncovers the skeletons in Stanislas’s closet are accordingly emotionally stunted, as is the film’s inconclusive finale. Similarly, interrogation scenes between Graff and one of his kidnappers in the film’s second half become tedious after a while but if these scenes are collectively Rapt’s biggest dead weight, then nothing can stop it from paying off.
Rapt will play on March 12 and 13 as part of this year’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series. To purchase tickets, click here.