An impressive lead performance and an efficient weaving of story threads make up for a lack of dramatic voltage in the French thriller “Rapt.” Writer-director Lucas Belvaux presents an intelligent, involving picture of privilege mentalities in this story about a top-of-the-world CEO whose star plummets after his brutal kidnapping sparks sensational media reports about his personal excesses.
Inspired by a 1978 incident, despite a lead character that feels plucked from current headlines, Belvaux (“A Trilogy”) starts off with a standard kidnap drama but wisely shifts into more multifaceted terrain.
The fine French actor Yvan Attal stars as Stanislas Graff, a successful, jet-setting industrialist who is introduced in a zippy passage that establishes him as self-important and obscenely advantaged. As fiction of this sort goes, he’s ripe for deflation.
The nightmare begins when Graff is kidnapped outside his mansion and chained and confined in a dark room. His abductors demand a ransom of 50 million euros. They include one of Graff’s fingers with the ransom note.
Belvaux shifts back and forth between the kidnappers and those working to free Graff, with the steep price tag prompting a flurry of maneuvering on the part of Graff’s business associates and police.
Thickening the scenario is a media blitz revealing that Graff, a reputed family man, has been living a hidden life that includes numerous mistresses and extreme gambling. The news causes corporate cohorts and family members, including Graff’s wife Francoise (Anne Consigny) to sour on Graff.
This affects the payment of the ransom and reshapes the plight of Graff, whose only friend may now be his dog and whose ordeal continues after the kidnappers decide to release him.
As a thriller and procedural, the film is merely adequate. Belvaux directs the action skillfully, but his tone is too dry to enable the drama to soar as a suspenser. There’s little sizzle. The movie is overlong.
But when he’s eschewing the formula, and that’s often, Belvaux combines the boardroom, domestic and related minidramas into an intricate, intriguing look at money, power, greed, luxury-class arrogance, corporate ruthlessness and celebrity-crazed media. He presents this canvas with a blend of humanity and cynicism that makes his material at once accessible and edgy.
The cast, which includes Alex Descas as Graff’s lawyer and Andre Marcon as Graff’s right-hand man, is excellent, with Attal deserving prime mention. Sometimes conveying emotion solely through his eyes, the actor’s Graff is sympathetic when he’s a haggard captive weathering his brutal treatment with dignity and is head-shakingly unlikable when operating as a cutthroat CEO. Either way, he keeps things complex and consistently interesting.
Starring Yvan Attal, Anne Consigny, Andre Marcon, Alex Descas
Written and directed by Lucas Belvaux
Running time 2 hours 5 minutes