Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was the Islamic State. Decimated as an organized subnational entity in Syria and Iraq, the most recent incarnation of evil seems to have been left in a drawer by the Western imagination.
Of course, there’s always the “lone wolf” stabbing someone on a European sidewalk, but that’s been relatively naturalized.
So was Al Qaeda, the predecessor of ISIS in the role of Satan, whose trajectory has had even more impact in recent history, as evidenced by 9/11.
Of course, both groups are trying to reorganize and are likely to spawn an even more deadly and cruel variant. But the West already needs to rely on art so as not to forget what terrified it throughout the 2010s.
“The Abduction of Daniel Rye”, a 2019 Danish film that is now showing in Brazil, is a very interesting attempt in this direction.
Many, at least in the United States, remember the beheading by Daesh of the first American journalist, James Foley, in 2014. But little has been read about the 18 other hostages of the one who, in both directions, shared a cell with him in Raqqa (Syria).
It is one of them, Daniel Rye, which is the work of Niels Arden Oplev and Anders W. Berthelsen. The obvious criticism of political correctness, right off the bat, is that this is yet another film featuring an innocent white man lost among dangerous people darker than himself.
Certainly, but it’s also a fact that wars have always had this type of character, and culture shock usually generates good stories, especially when its narcotic nature is made explicit.
It is a pity that Afghan cinema, for example, did not have the chance to say the opposite. With the Taliban returning to power soon, it shouldn’t be anytime soon.
Having said that, “Daniel Rye” is good cinema. A little academic in its early days, showing how Rye, a star gymnast, ended his career with a bad fall in a silly event.
The scene of the accident is key. Extremely painful, it relies on sound editing to leave the audience anxious, and that’s it. This will be repeated throughout the 13 months that Rye has been imprisoned in the hands of ISIS, with brutal torture and death pervasive in daily life.
The violence is contained graphically. But it’s intense, as is the threat in the eyes of the infamous Jihadi John, the British-born Arab Mohammed Emwazi who became a jailer and executioner of Westerners and Russians at the hands of the Islamic State.
Turning to Rye, he blends into the sluggish life of the Danish countryside, where we are introduced to his family: father, mother and sisters. The only interesting character is Anita, an older sister and very critical of the young man’s good life.
In search of a life as a photographer in Copenhagen, he landed an unlikely first job helping a more experienced professional on a mission in Somalia. The war virus, as journalists who lived through it say, understood it.
Determined to make a career, he sold the car to his father so he could leave for Syria in 2013, where the civil war against Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship had been raging for two years and a myriad of groups were starting to be overtaken by them. radical activists led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (1971-2019).
As the film brings and the chronicle of the time has already shown, they were half-rogue zealots: money always spoke louder, as evidenced by the trade of kidnapped Westerners and the sale of archaeological heritage. (this one not present in the work).
Rye is an example of an unprepared journalist, so innocent in his actions that anyone would think he was in fact a spy, as his captors first suspected. In an involuntary humor scene, he performs a stunt to prove he’s a gymnast, much to the sadistic delight of fundamentalists.
He was captured when he first entered Syria, in a scene that will chill anyone who has ever been at the mercy of unknown guides in inhospitable parts of the globe, something every journalist is subjected to, no matter what their experience.
Rye is played by Esben Smed, in an irrepressible performance of physical and mental decay. Foley, with whom he shares much of the intramural dialogue, is the much less impressive role of Tobey Kebbel.
The script features scenes in which the oppression of the imprisoned hostages is told in small gestures. The only Hollywood scene, an American rescue attempt with helicopters and the like, is so fast it’s barely noticeable.
The text alternates this development with his family’s desperation to raise money to free Rye. More than relatives, what emerges is the second strong point of the casting, the kidnapping of the negotiator Arthur (co-director Berthelsen).
The scenes in Europe help set the pace for the film, but that’s about it. The focus is on what’s going on inside ISIS cells, and the whole geopolitical context is simply brushed through the film.
As one would expect in a Nordic book, he forgets to recount the real turning point against terrorists, which was Russia’s intervention in Assad’s favor in the war, in 2015.
More “Midnight Express” (Alan Parker, 1978) than “War on Terror” (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008), the film is effective in providing an intimate portrayal of a horror that has lost its grace to mainstream Western media, even if she lives in the same galaxy, the same planet as her.