Directed and co-written by Maarten Treurniet 21 Days: The Heineken Kidnapping opens with a title card claiming that fact and fiction have been blended to make this movie. That said the facts that the film are based on are far more fantastical than many real life stories.
Set in 1983 the tale details the sensation story of the kidnapping of Freddy Heineken the owner and namesake of the famous brand of Dutch beer who was abducted along with his driver and held for ransom for 35 million Dutch guilders (about 13 million pounds).
When finally released the four kidnappers fled and Heineken was heavily involved in catching the men who had taken his freedom and imprisoned him against his will.
Staring the legendary Rutger Hauer as Heineken, Treurniet’s film attempts to fully flesh out all sides of the intriguing story and this is where the fiction comes in. At first concentrating much more on the kidnappers the film explores the how and why the four men would attempt such a daring and dangerous abduction.
Central to the movie is Rem (Reinout Scholten van Aschat) a slightly unhinged outsider who worms his way onto the gang via his brother-in-law Cor (Gijs Naber). Although a seemingly sympathetic character as the film moves forward we see a darker side of his nature appear driven by a deep rooted hatred for Heineken that comes to the fore when he has the man at his mercy.
Once he is captured the films focus starts to tip and we see more of Heineken who up to this point has appeared as simply an arrogant, selfish and adulterous cash cow. Confined and psychologically tortured by Rem our sympathies start to shift until we are fully behind Heineken and his obsessive pursuit of the kidnappers once he is freed.
As in real life nothing is black and white and whether you side with Heineken or Rem depends on your own opinions and experiences as both are as guilty and innocent of crimes during their lives as each other making neither one of them a pure hero or villain.
Reminiscent in many ways of Snowtown, 21 Days: The Heineken Kidnapping sets itself apart from many thrillers giving the film such a character driven focus and making sure the audience truly connects with not just the victims but the perpetrators helped by brilliant performances from all involved especially Hauer who in Hollywood is not given enough credit as an actor or serious roles such as this to prove himself in.
Well directed and scripted with excellent acting upon investigating the real case the liberties taken with the facts, of which there are many, are worth insertion for the creation of a more thrilling and insightful film and do not deter from the story.
Having been pointlessly remade and released recently staring over rated wrinkled faced Anthony Hopkins and Sam Worthington anyone who is not allergic to subtitles should check this out especially for Hauer’s excellent turn as Heineken.
It’s most definitely a film that refreshes the audiences other thrillers cannot reach.