Kidnapping Mr Heineken

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Reviewed by Jen Lawrie-Smith

In 1983 five childhood friends (and business associates) banded together to pull off the most audacious crime in Dutch history – in broad daylight they captured one of the world’s richest men, Freddie Heineken (Anthony Hopkins), the heir to the beer empire. It was the perfect crime… until they got away with it.

This film, based on the exhaustingly researched, best-selling account by Emmy Award-winning crime journalist, Peter R. de Vries, who had pursued the kidnappers and gained their trust, engaged me from start to finish. After a slow burn beginning, with stunning scenes of Amsterdam and simple character depictions, the storyline developed well and fired up to become a gripping thriller. Five good-looking young men held childhood fantasies about becoming multi-millionaires by kidnapping someone, and when their business fell on hard times they did just that; asking for a ransom of 35 million Dutch guilders (the equivalent of about $50 million [USD] today)! Cor Van Hout (Jim Sturgess), Willem Holledeer (Sam Worthington), Frans “Spikes” Meijer (Mark Van Eeuwen), Jan “Cat” Boelaard (Ryan Kwanton) and Martin “Brakes” Erkamps (Thomas Cocquerel) captivated the nation and in reality became front-page news. They weren’t hardened criminals and in the film their likeableness kept me engrossed.

Similarly, Hopkins plays the role of Heineken with aplomb. The strength of his character contrasts with the youthfulness of his captors. As I was drawn into feeling for all characters, I was both impressed and concerned at the same time; as the tension built I continued to hope the kidnappers did ‘the right thing’ by Heineken and his fearful driver who were both held captive for so long.

This was of one of the biggest kidnappings in history. In reality, the kidnappers were very complex characters. The film gives us glimpses of their personal lives and takes us to the core of their friendship. We’re challenged to imagine how each of them viewed what they were doing – were they united or would they fall apart? We see love, friendship and imaginings; we see the human heart conflicting with itself; drama, action and tragedy.

The director, Daniel Alfredson (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and other well-known Swedish films), keeps the action coming. Car chases, daring robberies and hair-raising tension serve as backdrops for the underlying pathos of this story. Well-balanced and engaging, this film is sure to appeal!

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