While perusing the out-dated list of horrors and thrillers on Netflix, I came across an original production by the streaming service. I’ve recently gotten into foreign action movies and thrillers and thought I was in for a treat.
Initially released on July 12 of this year, Kidnapping Stella, directed by Thomas Siebenf, is a German remake of The Disappearance of Alice Creed, a 2009 British thriller. Following the layout of the original, the remake is a stripped-down, almost minimalist script with a cast of three and a few plot twists. It brings a genuine sense of menace at the start, setting up a truly terrifying premise. However, it’s not sustainable as the film loses traction the more it progresses.
The 10-minute opening sequence is a dialogue-free assemblage of images: two men, Vic (Clemens Schick) and Tom (Max von der Groeben) go shopping. The men buy soundproof cladding, handcuffs, blackout curtains, locks, and other miscellaneous objects. They prepare a room with a sturdy double bed, blackout windows and add extra locks on the doors of the bedroom and the door to the small remote apartment within an abandoned block of flats As they discuss their plan to set a ransom for Stella, their personalities emerge. Vic is the leader, the idea man. Tom is meek, and his conscience is nagging at him. Why? Mum’s the word; no spoilers here.
Kidnapping Stella is just plausible enough to disturb you while you watch two men exercise their power over one woman. But, a movie that truly wanted to generate more viewer investment would go deeper by invoking more of Stella’s character, thus avoiding creating a static character, and convey more effectively what’s no doubt racing through her mind as she’s bound to a bed, gagged, with a bag over her head. It should be traumatic, but here, it’s just the plot. So it’s hard to take the film too seriously.
Essentially, it’s a shallow exercise of minimalist filmmaking: at best, reasonably suspenseful and modestly engaging. It’s a kidnapping thriller that works hard at creating a well-made finished product but doesn’t waste time on extraneous subplots. My biggest problem was that the kidnappers set a time frame to execute their plan, but the audience never gets a sense of urgency or pressure, making the pace feel dragged out longer than it needs to be. It’s the type of movie where the camera focuses on a plot device on the floor, and one person sees the plot device, and then a second person sees the plot device, and we wonder if the third person will see the plot device and blow the whole plot wide open.
I don’t like to back down from a movie. I like to give them a chance just in case they’re a diamond in the rough. And I can easily say I don’t regret watching this one. But, it compares unfavorably with the 2009 original. It could make for a solid lazy Saturday afternoon watch, though.