Ex-convicts, Vic (Clemens Schick) and Tom (Max von der Groeben) go shopping. They buy soundproof cladding, handcuffs, blackout curtains, locks, and other miscellaneous objects. They prepare a room; a sturdy double bed, blackout windows, extra locks on the doors, both the bedroom door and the door to the small, remote apartment. The apartment is in an abandoned block of flats.
Having prepared the room, the two men go and grab a woman, Stella (Jella Haase). They tie her up, gag her, and put her in back of a van, and take her to the apartment. Both the men have masks on, as they take her to the bedroom, cut her clothes off, put her in a plain red top and pants, and chain her to the bed. She has a cloth bag over her head and is struggling the whole time this ordeal is going on.
They take the bag off of her head so as to take a photo of her next to the newspaper of the day. They then leave the room. After disposing of her belongings, they return to the room. Only Vic speaks, he wants her father’s email address and mobile phone number. She gives them the information.
When they have left the room, Vic uploads the photos to a USB drive and leaves Tom alone with Stella. He tells him to check on her every ten minutes. When Vic returns they have another conversation with the woman, telling her how to indicate if she wants to go to the bathroom. They leave the room.
Vic and Tom are sitting down to eat. Vic notes that Tom is not eating. Tom says he is not hungry. Vic forces him to eat something. Vic is definitely the one in charge, confirming that notion by having Tom recommit to their plan. Vic goes out again.
Tom goes to check on Stella. She indicates that she wants to use the bathroom. Tom brings a bucket, and, realising he will have to undo her restraints, brings a gun as well. He releases her and gives her the bucket. Stella persuades him that she cannot do her business whilst he is watching. Tom turns his back.
She hits him with the bucket and grabs the gun. Still handcuffed to the bed on one side, she tells him to let her free. Tom refuses. He tries to grab the gun, and she gets a shot off. While he is disorientated by the deafening explosion, she grabs his mask and pulls it off. She knows him. Tom is her ex-boyfriend. Tom manages to overpower her and puts her back in the restraints.
Vic returns with bad news. Her father does not want to pay. They have to go back into the room. Vic tells Tom to set up a camera, he is going to cut off one of her fingers. Stella panics, screaming through her restraints as Vic puts the bolt cutters to her hand.
Tom starts the camera and Vic takes the gag out of Stella’s mouth. She begins to plead with him not to cut her finger off. She begs her father to pay the ransom and tells him that she is pregnant. Tom stops Vic.
Back outside of the bedroom, Vic takes issue with Tom interrupting him. Tom apologises and says it will not happen again. Vic checks the footage. He is happy. They go back into the room to feed Stella. Tom notices that the bullet cartridge from his scuffle with Stella is on the floor. Tom’s nervousness puts Vic on edge. Tom retrieves the cartridge and flushes it down the toilet.
Vic goes out to send the video footage. Tom asks Stella about the pregnancy. He does not believe she is pregnant. Tom is angry at her because she abandoned him when he got arrested and imprisoned. She tells him that she knew she had to get away from him once she found out she was pregnant.
Stella begins to choke. As he goes to help her, releasing her hands, she tricks him and handcuffs him to the bed. unfortunately, she cannot get out of the apartment.
She tries to call for help, having retrieved her mobile, but because she does not know where she is, she cannot tell the police where to find her. She goes back into the bedroom, trying to get the keys to leave the apartment, and is knocked unconscious by Tom.
He puts her back on the bed before Vic returns. Vic returns. Stella’s father has caved in, he will pay the ransom. Tom goes to prepare the van. He finds records of Stella’s doctor’s appointments. Meanwhile, Vic is with Stella, and finds the mobile phone on her. He asks her how she got the phone. Stella confesses that she tried to escape and he overpowered her. She also tells Vic that she is his ex.
Vic asks Tom if she is telling the truth about everything. Tom says she is. They take Stella to a remote location and chain her up. Vic says he has the coordinates for the money pickup. They go to the forest. Vic tells Tom to go and get the money.
There is no money. Vic tells Tom that he knows that Stella was his ex. He tells him he is going to kill him. Tom runs off and Vic pursues him. He shoots him, wounding him. Tom hides. Unable to find him, Vic leaves the forest.
He returns to Stella. As she knows who he is, Vic decides to kill her. A wounded Tom comes and stops him, hitting him with a metal bar. Vic shoots him again. As he is about to kill him, Stella kicks him and he drops the gun. Tom grabs the gun and kills him.
Tom is dying, Stella begs him to get the keys to her, so she can get out of the restraints. She frees herself and Tom dies. She leaves the two dead men, and finds the car with the ransom money. The end.
Written and directed by Thomas Sieben, Kidnapping Stella is not a bad film. With good performances from the three actors, and a straightforward premise, the film mostly works well over its ninety-minute runtime.
Set for most of its runtime in one location, Kidnapping Stella starts really well, and then sort of plateaus. With Schick’s Vic positioned as the antagonist, and Haase’s Stella a reluctant protagonist, Groeben’s Tom floats somewhere ambiguously in-between, neither committing to the plan, with him having instigated the snatching of Stella, out of anger, nor committing to Stella.
Though the situation is played out realistically, with all concerned acting as one would expect, in terms of dramatic tension, it does not really work. Stella almost escapes twice, the second time making a call to the police, which should have heightened the dramatic tension.
But because there is no impression of the situation getting out of control for Vic, or of the two men being close to being apprehended, or even being sought, the tension that should be present never appears.
It seems the budget may have restricted certain aspects of the film, with the only other person present being the voice on the end of the phone when Stella calls for help.
Though the kidnappers set a time frame—two days—to execute their plan, we never get a sense of urgency or pressure, which is the film’s real weakness. A sense of urgency would have made Kidnapping Stella a must watch. Instead, Kidnapping Stella is an interesting, okay viewing rather than a compelling one.