In 1983 the Netherlands was shocked by the kidnapping of one of its most renowned industrialists: Freddy Heineken, president of the famous brewery. More famous than the kidnapping, perhaps, is Heineken’s lengthy and vengeful court escapades to have his
kidnappers brought to justice after his rescue just 21 days after his abduction. 21 Days, directed by Maarten Treurniet, tells the story of Heineken’s ordeal
In order to tell a story like this- before, during, and after the kidnap- the pace has to match the length, the 118 minutes of screen time has to be balanced and, most of all, watchable. Unfortunately the timing of the piece halts its progress as a thriller, at various points, allowing it to meander where it should stride. Clarity is not always present either and, most disastrously, in the scenes where a quicker pace is attempted. For example, how the young team of petty thieves is delivered the ransom is a ridiculously short moment of “what was that all about?” The film feels like it stops and starts again too many times and the viewer can’t help but wait for TV adverts. A story like this deserves a more visceral, or at least focused, execution.
That’s not to say it totally flops, since there are more than enough good moments and the casting allows a group of hot-headed young men to be more watchable than they probably should be. Unsurprisingly Hauer lends a star quality to an otherwise mediocre affair, ensuring all his scenes are handled with suitable duress and defiance. Unfortunately there are not enough scenes allowing him to dive into the psyche of a man kidnapped, so a lot of those sequences which should let him prove his worth, end up falling flat.
Obviously this film is aiming for the recent wave of Euro-thrillers (which started with Nesbo adaptations) and even though it achieves that visually, it’s just too long and too boring to pull off the same gripping narrative. It does however pick up in its last half, carefully unveiling a court-drama, and ensuing fallout, that results in a successful climax. The final scenes may seem, for some, far beyond the reach of the rest of the film.
For Euro enthusiasts this could go either way, for everyone else it’s a tedious expedition into the heist genre. However the second half transforms the film into an enjoyable faster-paced court-drama which seems much more comfortable work for Treurniet. Overall I can’t help feel this could have been a pretty impressive TV movie.
Director: Maarten Treurniet
Stars: Rutger Hauer, Reinout Scholten van Aschat, Gijs Naber, Teun Kuilboer, Korneel Evers, Truus te Selle