Despite several decades of solid work on both sides of the camera, Belgium's Lucas Belvaux remains something of a cipher to American audiences, an oversight that his much-lauded dramatic thriller Rapt should capably rectify. Compellingly taut and existentially thoughtful, this exceptional Euro-American hybrid is perfectly pitched for the kind of crossover success previously enjoyed by Guillaume Canet's 2006 surprise hit Tell No One, assuming, of course, sufficient conviction and dedication on the part of distributor Lorber Films, to make it happen.
Loosely based on an actual 1978 incident, the present-day Rapt stars Yvan Attal as the fictitious millionaire playboy Stanislas Graff, a philandering rogue whose carefully orchestrated daylight kidnapping plunges his family and business associates into an unexpected and prolonged public nightmare. That much is certainly familiar territory—from Akira Kurosawa's 1963 High and Low to Bruno Barreto's 1997 Four Days in September to Ron Howard's 1996 Mel Gibson vehicle Ransom, kidnapping dramas have consistently provided the movies with some of their most riveting tension. With Rapt, however, Belvaux seems determined to break with formula at the very moment when other films would be tightening the screws on the question of when and how Graff might be freed and his kidnappers brought to justice. Instead, Rapt raises such concerns almost as a red herring, allowing them to dwindle in favor of the damage wrought by public revelations of Graff's indiscretions—revelations which might never have come to light if not for his abduction.
The choice to shift gears from classic procedural to character study is obviously no small matter—audiences unaccustomed to the calculated bait-and-switch of European dramas might otherwise be expected to revolt against the wholesale denial of a satisfying denouement. But Belvaux offers them something richer and more seductive—a morality play of almost Shakespearean proportions in which justice seems a mere distraction from the headier issues of fate, free will and the fragility of morality.
Attal is superb at navigating the complexities of a difficult, frequently inaccessible and dislikable character, while Ann Consigny's portrayal of his simultaneously strong and beleaguered wife is a masterpiece of screen subtlety. Technical efforts are equally impressive, underscored by cinematographer Pierre Milon's eloquent camerawork and marvelously stark lighting.
Distributor: Lorber Films
Cast: Yvan Attal, Anne Consigny, André Marcon, Françoise Fabian, Alex Descas, Michel Voïta
Director/Screenwriter: Lucas Belvaux
Producers: Patrick Sobelman, Diana Elbaum, Sebastien Delloye
Genre: Drama; French-language, subtitled
Running time: 126 min.
Release date: July 6 NY