Kidnapping for money has become common in many countries getting huge sums of cash from rich families. So in the film 24 Days the kidnappers target their quarry on the notion that all Jews are rich and have access to large amounts of money. The story is true, the events are heinous and the outcome reeks with anti-Semitism. What also rings clear are the methods that the perpetrators use to abduct the person and the modern day communications that make it almost impossible to catch the perpetrators.
It’s a cold day of January 2006 in Paris, France as Ruth Halimi (Zabou Breitman) shops for boots in a boutique in the shopping district. Mother of three grown children the new boots are for her son Ilan (Syrus Shahidi) a 23-year-old good looking single man who works in a wireless store. On the following day however, Ilan gets kidnapped using sexual favors to set up a trap. The abductors notify Ruth who calls her ex-husband Didier (Pascal Elbé) to ask him for help. The captors tell the family that they will be responsible if there are any mishaps in delivering the ransom and information will be given to them on the exchange soon. Didier doesn’t know how to handle the situation so he asks the police for help.
The film continues showing the beating of Ilan, the failed attempts to come to terms with the psychotic abductors, the police not able to trace the calls and the excruciating wait for a resolve. Director Alexandre Arcady moves his film along at a nice pace introducing his main characters, inserting new ones and then showing their agonizing wait for instructions, debate on how to pay and the miscommunication all around.
The acting is top notch with Zabou Breitman and Pascal Elbé leading the away as the concerned parents who start to become doubtful as the days go by and whether they should have worked with the police. The look on Breitman’s face as Ruth when she gets word her son has been abducted tells the whole story. It’s an unforgettable one of shock and disbelief. As the film progresses shows some confidence in his return until she realizes that it’s also an act of anti-Semitism. Didier played aptly by Elbe shows concern for his son, he’s reluctant about getting involved with from the beginning and his concern heightens with they insist on using a significant amount of delayed response to the abductors. Elbe’s character changes the mood to remorse late in the film when mistakes get made losing his composure.
The film points out that Ilan was targeted due to his Jew ethnicity. In fact following the outcome of the kidnapping, the real Ruth Halimi pushed for an outcry against anti-Semitism using her son’s kidnapping as an example. In her book “24 Days: the truth about the death of Ilan Halimi” she states: “I would like Ilan’s death to serve as an alert’. To ring the alarm, to not remain with crossed arms, to help this tragedy open our eyes. And above all else, to be on the side of the victims, not the hangmen. To be on the side of those who have suffered, those who have endured nauseating, heinous, irrational assaults by the group later known as the “gang of the Barbarians”.
24 Days has not been rated by the MPAA, but contains violence, brutality, drug use and a profuse amount of abusive language. The film plays out in French with English subtitles.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A well-made true story involving shocking subject matter. (B)
Additional Film Information:
Cast: Syrus Shahidi, Zabou Breitman, Pascal Elbé, Jacques Gamblin
Directed by: Alexandre Arcady
Genre: Crime, Drama
MPAA Rating: Not Rated, contains violence, language, drug use
Running Time: 1 hr. 50 min
Release Date: April 24, 2015
Distributed by: Menemsha Films