hostage coverDirector: Heath Jones
Script: Heath Jones
Cast: Stephen Hogan, Elyes Gabel, Alxy Khan, Dhaffer L’ Abidane, Christopher Simon
Running time: 94 minutes
Year: 2010
Certificate: 15

Apparently based on true events, Hostage sees American hostage, Adam Smith (played by Stephen Hogan), being imprisoned in a rather well-lit cellar somewhere in war-torn Baghdad. After the initial shock of his capture wears off Adam starts to increasingly confront his captors, demanding to know whether they intend to kill him and, if so, why. Not surprisingly he finds that he doesn’t like the answers he’s given, which results in a number of prolonged back and forth ethical arguments about the nature of war, and about atrocities caused by both sides of the conflict and about, you guessed it, religion.

With most of the film set in one fairly spartan room, and most of the drama revolving around the lead character, Hostage sinks or swims depending on Hogan’s performance. Stephen manages to portray an okay representation of a New York businessman well out of his comfort zone, but I have to admit I never really warmed to the man. He starts off as being quite whiney, moves along to a rather bolshie state and then finally gets overly sentimental about the Lord’s Prayer. Having said that, if that’s what the guy who it was based on was like then fair play to Hogan for staying true to the person.

When the film does move outside of the room, it’s in the shape of actual documentary footage of life in Baghdad and of the conflict itself, which I’m guessing was used to set the scene and to give the film a bit more in terms of production values. Also of note is the fact that there are no subtitles for when the men of Iraq are speaking their own language and local dialect. I’m guessing this is to increase our appreciation of the paranoia this would have implanted within Adam as he struggles to understand his captor’s conversations amongst each other.

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The acting overall is decent and I have to say I preferred the performances of the main Iraqi characters to Hogan’s lead role. I think the film would probably have benefitted from having subtitles for the Arabs so that we could have got to know them a bit better.

Technically speaking the film is competent rather than good with the direction being quite routine and the sound is rather soft and too quiet at times, apart from during the last scene where it goes ‘mental’ for a while!. The music is generally quite subtle and full of melancholy, which tends to suit the story.

The film is obviously pretty low budget and the filmmakers have made a reasonable job of presenting an interesting story for our modern age, even though it does tend to get a bit preachy at times and try and bang home some really obvious points about the nature of war and the human condition. Director Heath Jones also doesn’t make enough of the tension that should have been present in more of the scenes – there’s lots of drama here, but the film just wasn’t dramatic enough to really succeed. I did find the ending surprising though, although not necessarily in a good way… and I can’t help but feel that this would have made a better stage play than film.

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Hostage has been released on DVD by 101 Films. There were no extras on the disc.

Hostage (aka Kingdom of Dust)
2.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (4 Votes)

About The Author

After a lengthy stint as a print journalist, Justin now works as a TV and film producer for Bazooka Bunny. He's always been interested in genre films and TV and has continued to work in that area in his new day-job. His written work has appeared in the darker recesses of the internet and in various niche publications, including ITNOW, The Darkside, Is it Uncut?, Impact and Deranged. When he’s not running around on set, or sat hunched over a sticky, crumb-laden keyboard, he’s paying good money to have people in pyjamas try and kick him repeatedly in the face.

8 Responses

  1. Monika Ramuz

    well Justin Richards, one thing, Elyes Gabel did not play the lead role… he played Ahmed, so your review was grossly inaccurate.
    The main character was played by Stephen Hogan.

  2. Clark Kent

    I don’t want to say Justin is a joke. After all, he is one of the very few film critics who actually wrote a review. But the fact that the guy never took the time to correct his mistakes is appalling. That being said, I appreciate his writing.

  3. David Brook

    Fixed. Apologies for the mistake, but give Justin a break. I highly doubt he saw these comments and it’s a simple mistake to make. It’s not like they’re big-name actors and the press material we’re sent over as reviewers can be minimal.

  4. Clark Kent

    Thank you so much for fixing it. Most actor starts from nowhere. I bet Justin also started from nowhere, but now he has a wikipedia page recognizing him. Let’s treat people the way we want to be treated. Allahu Akbar!


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