From the opening shot of a bound, prostrate man struggling to breathe with a bloody plastic bag over his head, the Spanish thriller Kidnapped declares that it isn’t kidding around. Miguel Ángel Vivas’ home-invasion drama joins a subgenre well-populated by the likes of Desperate Hours, Funny Games, Panic Room, and The Strangers, and while Kidnapped doesn’t add anything substantially new to the tradition, Vivas hits his marks with ruthless efficiency. He begins with the family: cheery, well-to-do couple Fernando Cayo and Ana Wagener and their huffy teenage daughter, Manuela Vellés. Then he moves them into a house—one of those remote, stylish abodes where seemingly every wall contains an enormous window that a potential assailant could smash through, preferably after emerging out of the darkness in the back of the frame. And when those kidnappers appear, they grow less organized and less stable with each passing minute, such that a simple request for money turns into an awful mess.
Vivas’ biggest contribution to a familiar premise comes in his staging. Kidnapped consists almost exclusively of long tracking shots, which closely follow the characters in and out of cars, around the house, and even when they get violently knocked to the ground. Vivas also makes good use of split-screens, simultaneously showing what’s happening with Cayo and the kidnapping ringleader as they drive to an ATM, and what’s happening with the people they left behind, or showing what’s happening in adjoining rooms as Vellés and Wagener desperately try to call the police while the invaders try to stop them by threatening a surprise visitor. What’s missing from Kidnapped is a grander context—or richer subtext—to all the terror. Vivas and co-writer Javier García play a little with class conflict, and a little with the dynamics of a seemingly happy family, but nothing really takes root. Instead, the movie is all about narrow escapes and sucker-punches, and the way even the cleverest plans can be foiled by people willing to kill or be killed to get their way.