23-year-old Ilan Halimi (Syrus Shahidi) gets snatched by a group of kidnappers called the "Gang of Barbarians" after a girl he recently met had lured him to them. His divorced mother, Ruth (Zabou Breitman), and father, Didier (Pascal Elbe), desperately try to save the life their beloved son as they discover that he was kidnapped. Youssouf "Django" Fofana (Tony Harrison), the leader of the gang, contacts Ilan's family via email to ask for a very high ransom, assuming that they're wealthy because they're Jewish. The parents rely on the expertise of a police psychologist, Brigitte Farell (Sylvie Testud), to handle the negotiations while Ilan's life remains in jeopardy.
Director/co-writer Alexandre Arcady takes a rather Hollywood approach to telling the story because this thriller relies on its plot and twists to generate suspense rather than on atmosphere and character. He also moves the film along at a brisk pace which is also reminiscent of modern Hollywood thrillers---it seems as though Arcady can't seem to trust the audience's patience. Fortunately, though, he doesn't focus on the brutal tortures that Ilan indures; yes, there are some scenes of torture, but they're not with gratuitous gore. Instead the focus remains mostly on the struggles of Ilan's family and the police negotiator.
The screenplay by co-written by Arcad, Antoine Lacomblez and Emilie Frèche leaves no room for interpretation, and goes from plot point A to plot point B in a rather pedestrian fashion. What breathes some much-needed life and humanism into the film, though, are the performances, especially by Zabou Breitman who's quite convincingly moving. Those heartfelt performances help to somewhat compensate for the lack of depth and emotional resonance in the screenplay, although not enough to turn it into a thoroughly engrossing, intelligent and powerful thriller along the lines of Tell No One.