Explainers

Netflix’s Kidnapping Stella, Explained

Updated July 12, 2019
15 min read

‘Kidnapping Stella’ is a German thriller brought to the international audience by Netflix. It follows the kidnapping of a young woman and her attempts at trying to run free from her captors, who are one step ahead of her at every turn. What will she do? How will she escape? If you haven’t yet seen this film, I suggest you drop the article here and come back only after you have seen it on Netflix. The following discussion takes into account all the twist and turns (and there are many) in the film. You don’t want anything to be spoiled for you.

SPOILER ALERT

Summary of the Plot

‘Kidnapping Stella’ begins with two men on a shopping spree. But they are buying the things that would make anyone suspicious of them. They start by covering the walls of a room with soundproofing. They board all the windows and prepare the bed for their victim. They have made a well-thought-out kidnap room, and the plan they have concocted is just as precise. Soon, we see them abducting a woman from the street. They bring her to the room and begin their procedure. They change her clothes, take her pictures and let her family know that she has been taken. Meanwhile, the woman has started thinking about a way out of this problem. What can she use to her advantage? She only has to wait for one of them to make a mistake.

Tom and Stella’s Secret

Like any other crime, in kidnapping too, most of the times, the perpetrator is someone close to the victim. Stella finds herself in a similar condition. In a clever attempt to free herself, she succeeds in pulling off the mask of one of her kidnappers and is shocked to realize that it is Tom. What was their relationship and how did it go sour? What had happened between them? What was so bad that it made Tom abduct her and traumatise her so? The story goes something like this. Tom and Stella had been in love. They belonged to completely different worlds. Stella came from a rich family, an only child. She had everything she wanted and could have everything she desired.

Tom, on the other hand, doesn’t seem so well off. What we can tell about him from the bits and pieces given in the movie is that he must have had a difficult childhood. At best, we could say that he comes from a middle-class family. But then Stella mentions his “burglaries and fucked up friends”. If he had to steal to fend for himself, his financial status must have been worse than we previously imagined. The surroundings that he lived in got him that kind of friends. And then he met Stella. Come to think of it, their love story could easily become fodder for a romance film!

Even though Stella was in love with Tom, she didn’t approve of his law-breaking streak. She wanted him to stop, to do something better. We can speculate that she must have had some falling out with her father because of Tom. Was this the reason that they fought so much? Is this the reason why her father didn’t want to pay the ransom the first time? Did he think that his daughter had mingled with the wrong crowd and that the kidnapping could be a sham to extort money from him?

Anyway, despite telling her that he will stop, Tom didn’t. He continued with the wrongdoings which is what landed him in prison. He thought that because Stella was so rich, she would help him get out. She could talk to her father to get him a lawyer or some other way that could get him out of prison time. But no such thing happened. Also, when Stella discovered that Tom had been caught, she realised that he was never going to change. She had also found out about her pregnancy which made her think about the future of the child. Tom’s presence in their life seemed toxic and she decided to keep her distance from him. Meanwhile, if not her help, then Tom had been waiting for a letter or a call, at least. When no such thing came, he deduced that Stella had abandoned him. She was just another rich girl who didn’t think much of him. He felt betrayed and this turned into a bit of hatred, which is why when Vic asked him about a suitable candidate for kidnapping, he volunteered Stella. It wasn’t just for the money; it was to punish her for what she did to him.

Vic and Tom’s Backstory

Tom is a young man. He is in his late twenties and has already served time, which means he is not so good at whatever petty crimes he is indulged in. In this kidnapping, he is following Vic’s lead. It is Vic’s plan; Tom is just tagging along. Not only is he not experienced in this matter, but he also lets his emotions get the best of him, which is what Vic warns him against, time and again. If they are such different people, what brought them together? What makes a professional Vic partner up with an amateur who can’t even do what he is told?

Prison is not an easy place, especially for someone who is there for the first time. Vic had been already in there when Tom was thrown into it. He must have been there for quite some time, which allowed him to ponder over the next thing he’d do after getting out. It gave him time to concoct the perfect kidnapping. He has everything thought out everything to the detail. Now, he just needs someone he can trust enough to pull it off with. For obvious reasons, he can’t trust people already serving time in prison. When he sees Tom, he sees a clean slate. Still young and not in prison for too long, he hasn’t yet committed a serious crime. Hence, he wouldn’t be on the police radar as much as the others. Moreover, the time of their release must overlap. They haven’t escaped prison because we don’t see them trying to hide. Moreover, to execute a perfectly planned kidnapping while the cops are still looking for you wouldn’t be feasible. This means they have completed their sentences and are free men, at the moment.

Vic takes Tom under his wing. He protects him from other inmates and teaches him how to survive prison. Above all, he shares with him the plan of finding a way to commit one perfect crime and then leave the miserable life behind, once and for all. He maintains the fact that going in, they both need to be completely honest with each other. The more transparency between them, the more they can trust each other. Complete trust is the only thing that can get such partnership going. Tom is thankful for Vic’s help and agrees to join him. Vic has planned out everything, he just needs Tom to be his helper and in finding someone fitting their criteria. What’s the criterion?

Obviously, the possible victim should be filthy rich. The richer they are, the more money they can be asked of. Another fine detail to be kept in mind is that the victim should be an only child. The reasoning behind it is that if there is a sibling, there is a chance that the parent might love them better. Also, the presence of another child gives emotional support to the parent and they would be more focused on employing the help of the police. With a single child, people get more protective. If there is only one child, love is not divided. The threat on the life of their one and only progeny gives an increased sense of danger. There is no sibling to recompense for that loss. The urgency looms because you have been working hard and making money just for your family. And if your only child is gone, what’s the point of everything? Now, who is an only child of rich parents that Tom knows of? Stella! He proposes her name to Vic because this allows him to kill two birds with one stone. Not only will Vic’s purpose be served, but Tom will also be able to have his revenge on her.

However, in his moment of vengeance, Tom forgets Vic’s golden rule. No secrets. He doesn’t tell him about his history with Stella which becomes the one thing that brings them down. Had he come out clean to Vic, perhaps, he would have understood. He might even have changed the plan accordingly. Or, he would have completely scrapped the idea. He would have knocked some sense into Tom and let him know what a bad idea it is to get your ex kidnapped. The only thing that Vic is focused on is getting enough money to leave the country and his previous life behind. He wants the same for Tom, who is a young man with already a blemish on his record. This is something that he’ll never be able to shake off. Tom might not realise it, but he needs a fresh start as much as Vic does. But he is not as far-sighted as Vic and brings the whole plan to crumbs.

Vic has so much understanding that even after he discovers what Tom has done, he gives him a chance to come clean. He doesn’t directly jump at him. He gives him a hint that something feels wrong. He knows what it is, but he wants Tom to come forward, accept his mistake and explain himself so that they can move past it and get the job done.

The Kidnapping Plan

From the very first scene of ‘Kidnapping Stella’, we see that Vic is the one in charge of the duo. And it’s not just because he is the older one. It is because he seems in command of himself, he knows what he is doing, he is calm and composed, and above all, experienced. The meticulous planning and preparation suggest that he is no amateur. He has done a similar thing before and this is why has given attention to every detail. Making the room soundproof, boarding up the windows, installing extra locks and fastening the bed to the floor. His professionalism is further accentuated in the way he treats the victim.

Obviously, what he is doing to her is wrong, but he isn’t crossing the line an inch more than he needs to. In one scene, before we know about their connection, we see Tom thinking about touching Stella. With Vic, we see no such attraction. He is concentrated on his job and no stray thoughts cross his mind. He has thought it all out and his only concern is to get the job done. He knows that the more contact they have with Stella, the more chances are for their identities to be risked. He is considerate of her health; he makes sure that she is hydrated, he makes sure that she eats nutritious food.  The motive behind this is that he doesn’t want her to fall ill. Even the slightest problem could unravel their plan completely. He has also given thought to all the ways she could try to run.

The most common excuse that anyone asks for getting out of their bondage and attempting to escape is by asking for a toilet break. And you will have to give it to them. You take them to the toilet or, if you are Vic, bring the toilet to them. Obviously, it is humiliating for the captive, and honestly, isn’t such a fun task for the captors either. But it is the only way through which you can make sure that no occasion that can put you at risk arises.

Not only all these small things, but Vic has also prepared himself for all contingencies. Though everyone wants their child to be safe, not all will part from their money to make that happen. Children are their vulnerabilities and rich people know that there are some out there, ready to extort them on basis of that. If they keep bowing to the demands of such people, then their first surrender might not be their last. They allow the police to do their work. Vic has faced such situations before, which is why he knows that sometimes, an extra push is needed to emphasize the point. He was prepared to take it further if that’s what it would take.

When Stella’s father refuses to pay the ransom the first time, Vic doesn’t lose his cool. He doesn’t act irrationally and do something extreme in a fit of rage. No. He anticipated this and has prepared for it. The next step is to make the father realise that the danger looming on his daughter will increase with every refusal to pay the ransom. They are going to hurt Stella, but again, not more than they need to. Vic wants to start with the half of her pinkie finger. He knows she will lose a lot of blood and has prepared for that as well. He tells Tom to brace himself for the aftermath. He doesn’t want to hurt or kill her, but if the need arises, he won’t hesitate to. His plan works, and the second time, Stella’s father decides to pay up.

The Ending

After Vic realises that Tom has betrayed him and wouldn’t come clean about it either, he decides to take a different route. Stella’s father has already agreed to pay the ransom. Tom and Vic both knew the place where they wanted the money delivered. But after the revelation, Vic changes the location. Then, they take Stella to another place where they had planned to keep her until they got the money. When they arrive at the original location, Tom discovers that the money hasn’t been left. At first, he thinks that they have been duped, but then Vic tells him that he knows everything and shoots him. Tom somehow survives and makes his way back to the place where Stella currently is. Meanwhile, Vic goes to the other drop point, picks the money and comes back to finish off Stella. But before he can do that, an injured Tom arrives and stops him. A struggle follows, Tom is shot, again. But this time, with Stella’s help, he manages to kill Vic. In his dying breaths, he gives the keys to Stella who frees herself, takes Vic’s car and runs away.

Is Kidnapping Stella a True Story?

The short answer is no. ‘Kidnapping Stella’ is actually German adaptation of a British film, ‘The Disappearance of Alice Creed’. It is almost a frame to frame reworking of the original which is why to compare the two of them is natural. While the original too is a work of fiction, it is a better film than its remake. The British film had the benefit of offering something fresh. Whatever twists and turns there were, they were unexpected, and that is what made it so enjoyable. Obviously, the remake follows the same line of events. And if you haven’t seen the original, it is a rather good watch. But still, it misses the mark by a considerable margin. Even for a viewer unbiased by the previous experience with the story, ‘Kidnapping Stella’ doesn’t break any new grounds.

Will There a Be a Kidnapping Stella Sequel?

The chance of a sequel depends on several factors, but the two most important ones are: Is the movie popular enough to make people come back for more, and does the film have enough in it to warrant a sequel that can take the story forward? I am afraid the answer to both those questions is no. The film will have a difficult time finding audience considering it is a remake that doesn’t match up to the original. But even if we assume that it finds enough audience, there’s not much left in the film that can be explored in a sequel. So, we wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a sequel completely, but practically speaking, the chances of it are close to nil.

Final Word

‘Kidnapping Stella’ is a one-time watch and does pique your excitement on a couple of occasions, but overall, it is not so impactful. What viewers expect from a remake is not just re-telling of the story but its enhancement too. In today’s world, where cinema’s reach is far and wide, why would you want to remake a film that relies heavily on its twists? What new do you have to offer? Unfortunately, ‘Kidnapping Stella’ doesn’t take things up by any notch for ‘Alice Creed’. Rather, it brings the level down. The changes that have been made in the story only tone down the impact and prove one more time why people prefer the originals so much.

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