'Rapt'

A contemporized take on the real-life 1978 kidnapping of millionaire playboy Edouard-Jean Empain.

With his previous thrillers, “Trilogy” and “The Right of the Weakest,” Belgian multihyphenate Lucas Belvaux effectively used the genre to explore questions of family, society and class. In “Rapt,” a contemporized take on the real-life 1978 kidnapping of millionaire playboy Edouard-Jean Empain, the issues come clashing together in an explosive package that, despite some snafus, remains fairly riveting to the end. Boosted by Yvan Attal’s harrowing portrayal of the incident’s not-so-innocent victim, and by several suspense sequences helmed with efficiency and grace, the pic could escape seclusion in Francophone markets to find broader international exposure.

Highly covered by the French media at the time, Empain’s nine-week sequestration started out as a criminal affair. But it soon became a moral scandale when proof of his lavish gambling and philandering was discovered by police and leaked to the press. Though his abduction was initially perceived as a harmless ploy for ransom, Empain was eventually seen by family, friends, co-workers and the public as having received the comeuppance he deserved.

Belvaux adapts the tale to present-day Paris, upping the bounty by many millions of Euros and fictionalizing the characters, but he otherwise remains quite faithful to the original events. These begin with jet-setter Stanislas Graff (Attal) being ambushed on his way to work, handcuffed and blindfolded in the back of a car, and then taken to a secluded rural cave where his captors, headed by the passive-aggressive “Marseillais” (Gerard Meylan), chain him up like an animal and slice off one of his fingers.

Filmed in jarring widescreen closeups by Belvaux’s regular d.p., Pierre Milon, and edited with intensity and precision by Danielle Anezin, these and other sequences involving Graff are powerful, realistic setpieces shown from the victim’s terrified p.o.v. Attal’s depiction of Graff is both physically brutal and emotionally convincing, revealing his character’s waning psychological state through painful contortions of his skeletal frame.

Less convincing, though not entirely uninteresting, is the simultaneous story of Graff’s wife (Anne Consigny), right-hand homme d’affaires (Andre Marcon) and ruthless attorney (Alex Descas) dealing with demands for ransom, while investigators uncover proof of the heir’s sexual and monetary deviances. These scenes, played out in swanky drawing rooms or boardrooms, are often stiffly performed and all-too-systematically chilling, as if the rich and powerful will forever favor sangfroid and pedigree over pure emotions.

Well-employed tech package is rounded out by Riccardo Del Fra’s moody, piano-heavy score.

Rapt

France-Belgium

Production

A Diaphana Distribution (in France) release of an Agat Films, France 3 Cinema (France)/Entre Chien & Loup, RTBF, Ateliers de Baere (Belgium) production, in association with Diaphana Distribution, Films Distribution/Mercure Intl., with participation of Canal Plus, France 3, Cine Cinema. (International sales: Films Distribution/Mercure Intl., Paris.) Produced by Patrick Sobelman, Diana Elbaum, Sebastien Delloye. Directed, written by Lucas Belvaux.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Pierre Milon; editor, Danielle Anezin; music, Riccardo Del Fra; production designer, Frederique Belvaux; costume designer, Nathalie Raoul; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Henri Morelle, Ricardo Castro, Bernadette Thiboud; assistant director, Brieuc Vanderswalm; casting, Brigitte Moidon, Gerda Diddens. Reviewed at Gaumont Champs-Elysees Ambassade, Paris, Nov. 19, 2009. Running time: 126 MIN.

With

Yvan Attal, Anne Consigny, Andre Marcon, Francoise Fabian, Alex Descas, Michel Voita, Gerard Meylan, Maxime Lefrancois, Christophe Kourotchkine, Sarah Messens, Julia Kaye, Patrick Descamps.

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