Daniel ★★★★ 1/2 – DVD & Digital Release

Daniel ★★★★ 1/2 – DVD & Digital Release

Filled with strong performances, Daniel is a harrowing reminder to what happened to captives held by ISIS. Bold and raw, this is a harrowing film, but one that is important to watch and recognise.

Daniel Rye (Esben Smed), a Danish photographer was on a job in Syria when he is captured by ISIS in 2013. Tortured and held for ransom by the terrorist organisation Daniel is placed in the same group as well-known U.S. journalist James Foley.

Opening with a career-ending gymnastics injury and seeing his family and personal life. Daniel Rye has things going pretty well for him. When he takes a journey as a photography assistant. He finds his new passion and soon he is going to Syria to help document life for citizens of the warn torn country. Not long later he is captured and goes through an unimaginable series of psychological and physical torture at the hands of ISIS.

From here he is held with some higher profile prisoners, one of which is James Foley. Unlike Foley and some others, Rye is not classed as a political prisoner and ISIS are merely seeking municipal payments for his release. Sadly, Denmark does not have a ransom policy with ISIS and are unwilling to pay for his release. Leaving Daniel and his family in agonising limbo for over 13 months.

Throughout Daniel, respect to the true events is engrained in the film as of course from what we know, this all happened. We see the environments our prisoners are being held in and the torture they endure. It is unflinching and raw, serving as a stark reminder to the risks of travelling to such countries even to document the strife occurring.

By breaking away to the family in this story we can get breathers. We need it as when we are forced to see what the captives are going through. It becomes harder and harder, especially as time goes on and as we know the events. Some of these poor souls lives are in graver peril. When in the prisons and other areas in Syria. Daniel feels so authentically real and it is a credit to the filmmakers for making sure that, that is the case. However, the closeness to realness. Especially in regards to some of the videos the characters watch is hauntingly close to what happened and cause a bit of a disconnect. In that we don’t want to think what we are seeing is real.

Usually, in these types of films, the narrative is split between what is happening to the prisoner and the efforts to get them home. Daniel is no different in that regards. Except instead of focusing on the politicians and diplomats who are trying to get him home. We have the focus on his family circle who are caught in the headlights, dragged along for the most unwanted of rides. We see the desperation of the family under the knowledge of what awaits their beloved son if funds are not raised. Their frustrations with a government that practically refuses to help them. The pain never leaves the family and thus never leaves the audience as we witness the challenges the Rye’s have in getting the funds as the ransom demands continually rise to incomprehensible amounts.

Smed gives everything in his powerful performance as Rye. In this demanding and physical performance. He shines even when the film ventures further into the true darkness of Rye’s experiences during his torture and captivity. Anders W. Berthelsen who plays negotiator Arthur is equally as strong and while he doesn’t go through the torture that Daniel does. He knows what Daniel and others are going through and has to handle the pain and grief of families of those held. It is an understated performance. But one that is vital to anchor the film when we switch from seeing what is happening in Syria.

A word must be shared to the portrayal and screen time to James Foley. The filmmakers here have as mentioned kept the upmost level of respect to all involved and as much as this is Daniel’s story. It is also James. We see the abuse he also goes through, if not more simply because of the country he is from. We see how the captors try to skew his fellow prisoners into not being near him, to isolate him. This, for the most part, doesn’t work and while we know Foley’s fate. It doesn’t halt the grief we share with Daniel by the end of the film.

Daniel is a must watch and a film that should be applauded for the efforts it went to depict a series of events that 99% of the world would never want to encounter. A thought-provoking and essential film that if watched last year would have shot up into one of my top films of 2020.

★★★★ 1/2

Signature Entertainment present Daniel on Digital Platforms 18th January

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