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held for ransom

Movie Reviews

‘Held for Ransom’ review: Powerful hostage drama based on truth

Patient drama based on a true story.

Held for Ransom deals in one of the uglier realities of war. The capture of prisoners of war is an expected outcome of any conflict. Much more surprising but just as commonplace is the taking of civilians. Daniel Rye was a Danish photojournalist who was held hostage for 398 days by ISIS. The movie chronicles what Daniel and the other journalists that were captive with him did to survive. 

In order for a hostage drama to really draw the audience in, the performances have to be compelling. Not only does there have to be imminent danger, there has to be the belief that the prisoners are struggling through an ordeal. The entire cast of Held for Ransom are great. This is especially true of the captors who easily could have slid into cartoon villainy but remained grounded. 

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Held for Ransom does not confine itself. Along with dealing with Daniel’s capture, the film also follows how his family are handling things. This is not uncommon, but what usually ends up happening is one side takes precedent over the other. That is never the case here as the film is well spaced. This adds emotional heft to everything that occurs. 

The film moves at a methodical pace never rushing or lingering over any moment. This does not mean the ordeal Daniel went through is downplayed, however. Held for Ransom is able to capture all of the pain and agony along with the determination of those in confinement. It never resorts to easy answers or becomes an action thriller. 

The quick answer is Held for Ransom is able to remain a patient drama since it is based on a true story. While that is partially true, there have been many adaptations of real life events that have made it a point to exaggerate events for added effect. Directors Niels Arden Oplev and Anders W. Berthelesen make it a point to deliver the full impact of what happened without making anything too cinematic. 

It is always difficult to make a film that is based on true events. This is especially true of movies that deal with delicate situations. Held for Ransom recounts a hostage situation that continued for over a year. It is a moving story that refuses to rely on melodrama.

Held for Ransom comes to theaters and on VOD/Digital October 15

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