The Clan (4 stars)

The Clan

Pablo Trapero's real-life story about kidnappings in 1980s Buenos Aires is as involving as it is shocking

Rarely has the phrase 'truth is stranger than fiction' felt more apt than when applied to Argentinean director Pablo Trapero's new film, The Clan. Based around the real-life story of the Puccios, a middle-class family living in the suburbs of Buenos Aires in the early 1980s, it's a kidnap thriller with a political edge. But with this clan led by the terrifying patriarch Arquimedes (Guillermo Francella), it's also a richly rewarding tale of a fractured and frightened family.

For those outside Argentina, where the Puccios became headline news, the premise is as simple as it is shocking. Led by Arquimedes, who had worked under the country's brutal dictatorship, the Puccios become organised kidnappers, abducting locals in their neighbourhood, imprisoning them in their home and demanding ransoms. The first victim, a member of the same rugby team that eldest son Alex (Peter Lanzini) plays for, is killed when the release is botched.

This brutal pay-off, killing the victims after the ransom money has been paid, soon becomes a modus operandi for the Puccios, with Alex increasingly sucked into this deadly world. There are others in the family – mother Epifania (Lili Popovich) and four other children, including son Daniel (Gaston Cocchiarale), who has made his escape to New Zealand – who, if not directly involved, seemingly turn a blind eye to these violent and nefarious activities.

What gradually emerges is the frightening hold Arquimedes has over his family. Brilliantly played by Francella, who international audiences will know from The Secrets In Their Eyes, he's a diabolical creation. Trapero and his team lend the film a noir-ish tension throughout, playing with structure and editing in a way that will keep you hooked until the very last scene. Without spoiling anything, The Clan also boasts a staggering final shot – one of technical virtuosity that puts most Hollywood movies to shade.

Key cities from Fri Sept 16.

The Clan

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • Argentina / Spain
  • 1h 48min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Pablo Trapero
  • Cast: Guillermo Francella, Peter Lanzani, Lili Popovich
  • UK release: 16 September 2016

In early 80s Argentina, former intelligence agent Arquimedes (Francella) turns to kidnapping as a way of maintaining his family's lifestyle. Shocking true story of the Puccio family, with a brilliant performance from Francella; a richly rewarding tale of a fractured family.