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04/26/2015 04:09 pm ET Updated Jun 26, 2015

Popcorn Preview: 24 Days

24 Days (24 jours) (2014)
Cast includes: Zabou Breitman (The Minister), Pascal Elbé (The Other Son), Jacques Gamblin (Safe Conduct), Sylvie Testud (La Vie en Rose), Tony Harrison (Snow White)
Director: Alexandre Arcady (Hold-up)
Genre: Drama | Suspense | Biography (110 minutes) French with subtitles

"My name is Ruth Halimi." Ruth goes on to tell us about that day in 2006 when her world fell apart. "How could this happen?" she still asks. That day was just an ordinary day. Ruth does some shopping on her way home from work. A shoe store is having a sale and she spots a pair of shoes for her son Illan, even though he's old enough to buy his own shoes. Because it's Friday, Ruth's three children are coming over for Sabbath dinner. Ilan has gotten a bit closer to his absent father in recent years, but hopefully, he won't follow in his footsteps as a shopkeeper. Ilan works as a salesman in a mobile phone store, but at age 23, he's finally got plans for a real career. Ilan gets a call on his mobile and rather suddenly has to cut the evening short. It was Emma, the sexy girl from earlier today who asked for his number. Ilan is vague about where he's going because Ruth likes Ilan's girlfriend, and he knows his mother won't approve of his clandestine meeting with Emma.

On Saturday, no one can figure out why Ilan hasn't answered his phone. This isn't like him. When Ruth takes her grandson to the bedroom for his nap, Yaël gets a call... something about watching for an email. Getting the email with the image of Ilan... beaten and bound with duck tape, holding a newspaper and a gun to his head... is the moment the nightmare begins. There's a ransom demand of €450,000. Of course, there's no way for the Halimis to get that kind of money. Ruth calls her ex-husband Didier and the whole family goes to the police station. Commandant Delcour seems very professional... he immediately brings in all their top people, including Brigitte, a psychologist whose specialty is negotiating with criminals... or terrorists... or whoever these people are. Right now the working theory is that they're criminals who kidnapped Ilan for the money... but when chaotic, angry phone calls start coming in and the ransom demand suddenly drops to €100,000, Delcour is concerned that something's really off. They soon trace the calls to the Ivory Coast, but obviously, the caller is working with someone in Paris... probably in the suburbs... in the Muslim "ghetto."

The police pull out the stops, except that they keep the incident out of the press because they're afraid publicity will make things worse for Ilan. Maybe that's a mistake... it's hard to know. "We've kidnapped a Jew," says the ransom demand. The police continue to think the kidnapping is about money, but when the kidnappers call her son a "Jew" rather than a "man," Ruth feels strongly it's about anti-Semitism and that they plan to kill him, whether they get the money or not. 24 Days is based on actual events, which were captured in a book by Ruth Halimi. Filmmaker Alexandre Arcady was so moved by the book that he wanted to turn it into a film. It's fast moving, suspenseful and powerful... definitely not for the reticent. Even if you remember the actual news reports and know how the story ends, you'll still find the film completely gripping. When the crime finally does get press coverage, it causes national outrage... but that's not to say there's unity in the outrage. This is a timely topic because Muslim marginalization seems to be getting worse in France, as is anti-Semitism. Emotions ran high during those awful days, and Ruth still asks, "How could this happen?"

4 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
Ilan's family isn't rich, but his kidnappers think they are... are they just after money, or is there another motive?

Popcorn Profile
Rated: R (Language, Violence, Crime)
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Bold
Distribution: Art House
Mood: Sober
Tempo: Zips Right Along
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism
Nutshell: Kidnapping true story
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Timely Topic & Thought Provoking

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