The Saratov Approach (2013) Poster

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5/10
Kidnapped Elders
bkoganbing6 September 2015
A couple of passing Mormon Elders steered me to this film and I have to say it was not a bad choice. Filmed in both Salt Lake City and Kiev, The Saratov Approach is about two Mormon Elders on their mission in the Russian city of Saratov who are kidnapped by a pair of would be criminals and the LDS church itself given a ransom notice.

As a tenet of the faith these young men and occasionally women do go on these two year missions to spread the faith. In that time if one is converted by them it's gravy. The meat and potatoes is to spread good will for the Church of Latter Day Saints. So Elders Propst and Tuttle are doing just that in the Russian they've learned in preparation for this assignment.

Corbin Allred and MacLain Nelson do a good job in roles they are clearly too old for. Missionaries are usually 18 to 25 and the real Propst and Tuttle are identified as 23 and 20 in an article I read on the case. All the Mormon Elders I've ever encountered were about that age and the most recent two who recommended this film looked barely out of high school. In fact had they gotten two who looked like them to play Propst and Tuttle the film would have been better because the vulnerability would have increased exponentially.

Alex Veadov and champion skater Nikita Bogolyubov play the kidnappers. Veadov is a Russian navy veteran and Bogolyubov just a follower in over his head. On certain levels the Elders do bond with the kidnappers, but it's hardly a Patty Hearst situation.

The Saratov Approach is a nice film that would have been better with different casting of the Elders. It's also a commercial for the LDS church, but that's to be expected.

And this review is dedicated to those passing Mormon Elders Reed and Hamilton both from rural parts of Utah who recommended The Saratov Approach as good material to review.
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7/10
Big Story on a Small Budget
ETO_Buff30 September 2015
I first want to dispel a prevalent myth about this film, and all other publicly released films that portray members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members (except "Meet the Mormons"): This film was produced by a privately-owned production company that is owned by a member of the Church. It was not produced or endorsed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If it was, it would have had a MUCH bigger budget!

That being said, there are only two types of reviews on this film - very positive or very negative. Two or three people took the middle ground, but that's it. I enjoyed this film quite a bit, and found it to be very well-made with the limited resources the production company could afford, and I was impressed that a Mormon-cinema film actually went as far away as Kyiv, Ukraine to photograph the outdoor shots.

People who watched the film without any prejudice (Mormons and non- Mormons alike) saw a film about hope and forgiveness, and were inspired by it.

Those that hate the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hate the film (shocking!) and saw it just so they could criticize any little pointless detail that they could find. In spite of the variety of their criticism, all of the negative reviewers have one thing in common as far as I can tell - they have never produced a film. They are also the ones that will find this review as not useful.

Some reviewers of this film called the plot predictable. Well, considering it's a true story and it was all over international news, it does't take a lot of effort to predict what was going to happen, does it? Maybe the filmmakers could have altered history, and changed the way things really turned out like in "Inglorious Basterds".

Other reviewers made the point that the story could have been told in ten minutes. Sometimes a filmmaker likes to give an audience a sense of how time drags in certain desperate situations, like in "Das Boot".

Some complaints are that the film is "preachy" or "too religious". Newsflash: It's about two men serving as missionaries for a church, and it's therefore their job to preach! Missionaries do that. On another Web site, some unnamed idiot from IMDb even criticized the Mormon filmmakers for making a film about Mormons, for Mormons, with Mormons in the cast, produced in a city with a 40% Mormon population. Maybe this person would have preferred that a Mormon make a film about Catholics, or Jews, or some other group that he doesn't know anything about.

A lot has been said about the actors being a decade or so older than the characters they portray. Personally, I'm getting tired of seeing Corbin Allred in every Mormon-cinema film that's released, but the fact is no production company outside of Utah is going to produce a film that gives a fair and accurate portrayal of Latter-day Saints, or the Church to which they belong. This film was produced by a company that's based in the Salt Lake City area, which believe it or not, is not a hotbed of acting talent, nor an entertainment Mecca. The guys that are cast in the film did an excellent job, and that's probably why they passed the audition. Get over it.

And finally, many bring up the fact that the film appears as if it was filmed on a low budget. Surprise! It was! In fact, one genius who's not in the United States decided that the apartment hallway looked like it was in Brooklyn, New York, USA. Actually, that scene, like all of the indoor scenes, was filmed in Draper, Utah.

The bottom line is, everyone that's curious about the film should see it. Those who are looking to find issues with it, will find issues, as with anything. Those who are looking for a story that is 95% accurate (according to the people that it's about) and a good example of an independent film, will be glad they saw it.
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7/10
It's a clean, compelling, competent movie. Watch it!
caf-1917 December 2020
So my husband picked out the movie this night. He mostly likes movies that "Are real". This movie is based on a true situation that did occur with some Mormon Missionaries. So guess what? It's going to be about 1) Mormons 2) Religious faith 3) Religious faith during times of intense trouble. Most people cannot deal with this subject matter in a mature or objective way anymore, preferring instead to be titillated by the glut of porn, violence, horror, and Computer Animated silliness.

I found this film a refreshing break from the endless morass of film mediocrity. An interesting story told without gratuitous sex, endless F-Bombs, or piles of oozing intestines falling out on the floor - imagine that?
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2/10
You need blind faith to endure this Rasputin v. Tintin mush
jegpad9 June 2014
Be highly aware that the positive reviews written here are driven by the religion of the writers.

The score is truly appalling, ill-fitted to the context, almost constant throughout the film and extremely irritating.

The narrative is cardboard cut-out in it's execution and as convincing in it's delivery as the fable that the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, Joseph Smith, was directed to golden plates buried near his home by an angel. (Oh, and the angel repossessed the plates before they ever saw the light of day - convenient eh?).

If you want to watch a couple of preppies handcuffed to a radiator for 90 minutes, be my guest.
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4/10
Your quick guide to Christianity
Raul4ever6 July 2014
Alright I watched the whole thing but not from love for the movie or a curiosity to know the climax (which is very predictable) but just because I liked the music score and I found the acting decent. Also because I had some time to kill.

The storyline is of two Christian missionaries being kidnapped for ransom and the ordeal they have to go through. Sounds like a Good tale right? NO, the problems come from them repeatedly giving their thoughts on Christianity and Jesus almost every time they talk (other than the bit where they talk about the NBA). Towards the end, the preaching started to grate on my nerves and also the other scenes where their families were being shown.

In short, if you are Christian and believe that the Christ is your savior and died for your sins, then go ahead and watch it. Others, just stay away. The 4 in my rating is for the music score and I quite liked the Russians.
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8/10
one of the better LDS movies
johnny_burnaway12 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I think the problem with reviewing an LDS movie is that the people most moved to comment tend to fall into two camps: people who don't like Mormons or Mormonism and therefore would never say anything good about anything featuring either, and Mormons who speak from the other end of the spectrum and defend everything LDS to the hilt. I am LDS so take my comments as you will.

I am not too keen on Mormon cinema, though, and only watched "The Saratov Approach" reluctantly. I have to say, the joy of low expectations is that they are sometimes exceeded, and that was the case here.

This is the true story of two Mormon missionaries in Russia who are kidnapped and held for ransom. Throughout their ordeal, they attempt to make the best of the situation while coming to terms with the possibility that they might be killed. We also see the agony their families go through, and how all the resulting diplomatic effort and posturing eventually leads to the fact that no one is going to pay the ransom.

There might have been a bit more tension had this not been based on a true story. If you're familiar with the actual case (let me google that for you!), you know how the movie is going to end. That makes it less of a thriller and more of a study that leads you to ask how you would respond in a similar situation. It made me think of the French film "Of Gods and Men", another true story which tells of monks in Algeria who are threatened by Muslim extremists and the choices they make in response.

Corbin Allred and Maclain Nelson may seem a little old to be playing 20-year-olds, but that's nothing new in filmmaking. Have you watched "Grease" lately? They do a great job conveying initial terror and the gradual change that comes over them the longer they spend with their captors.

For those who take exception to the supposed preachiness of this movie, you have to remember that it's telling the story of two men who were kidnapped while serving their church full-time. Of course there will be a strong element of spirituality, expressions of faith, and mention of beliefs. All of this may resonate more with the initiated, but it rings true to the characters and where they were at that point in their lives.

Finally, a word to the filmmakers, in case they ever film again: USE A TRIPOD! I understand that the hand-held camera effect adds to the cinema verite and also creates an atmosphere of unease, but there's no reason why an establishing shot of a house has to shake so much! I'm so glad I didn't see this in the theater or I'd have puked in my lap. It was tough enough on my TV. Others have mentioned "The Blair Witch Project", which I did see in the theaters, and I was sick as a dog afterward. So watch "The Saratov Approach" but watch it on a laptop or something.
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4/10
well crafted sermonizing hung on the frame of a true story
dmblanch1 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Despite what the other 10 star reviews would have you believe, this is very much an LDS movie that will likely appeal only to LDS audiences. Since it's a true story that made TV news in its day, I suppose it is no spoiler to reveal that not much happens to the two kidnapped missionaries during their 5 days of captivity before they are voluntarily released. For that reason the screenplay fills the action void with: a dream sequence, many flashbacks, a heady dose of preaching to the camera, and some none-too-subtle figura christi allusions. But I'll grant you that it is a fairly well made film for its type. It's true that the actors playing the missionaries are about ten years too old for their roles and the ones playing Senators and FBI agents are about 10 years too young, but overall the film is comfortably shot and scored. Yes, the hand-held camera is herky-jerky even when it doesn't need to be, but who really cares about these quibbles? Go see it if you skipped Sacrament Meeting last Sunday or if you just want to reinforce your belief that deep down all gentiles really respect we Mormons even when their use of coffee, tea, and beer makes them do bad things -- like not root for the Utah Jazz.
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1/10
Mormon Propaganda strikes again
ankhharu21 March 2015
What can I say that hasn't already been said? If you've been brainwashed by the cult known as the LDS church, you'll give this film 9 or 10 stars. If you are an open minded individual not controlled by a church, you can clearly see this is a bad film pushing a religious agenda.

Bad acting. Bad writing. Bad directing. Clearly not filmed in Saratov with cheesy attempts to hide that fact. Just bad. This should have gone straight to video and somehow it didn't. I didn't make it to the end, as I don't sit through anyone's sermons that support a mythological being created by preliterate 3rd person accounts. It's a shame we live in a world that still believes in this garbage. The IMDb rating for this film is 5.5. But it's much worse than 5.5, no thanks to the LDS cult trying to boost the films appeal by blindly giving it a 10. A small example of the lengths religion will go to to defend it's fairy tale.
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10/10
A Riveting True Story
ikjirstin9 October 2013
At last, a film that stays true to the facts while moving the story along in a way that keeps you glued to the screen. I seriously had to pee, but couldn't leave.

Russia in 1998 was a wild frontier. Filled with people used to living under a communist system that had fallen less than a decade before, they were now fending for themselves. There was not enough of anything, and people were desperate. Hearing that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was "rich" two Russian men (well played by Alex Veadov and Nikita Bogolyubov) decided kidnapping and ransoming a couple of Mormon boys would be no big deal, and lead them to Easy Street.

Elders Tuttle and Propst (aptly acted by Corbin Allred and Macclain Nelsen) became their unwitting targets.

We see young men like these every day, usually riding bicycles, two by two. They were portrayed as they are; clean-living guys dedicated to serving others for two long years, at their own expense, giving arguably the best years of their lives to try to make the world a better place. They certainly didn't expect something like this to come along to shake things up.

This film is different from previous sermonizing Mormon movies. It has a gripping story to tell that is a lesson for not only all religious groups, but for any company, family or tourist who may find themselves taken for ransom. With over 20 million people currently being held captive against their wills throughout the world, it's a lesson to contemplate. Do you pay, and make it easier for more kidnappings to take place? Do you fight for your freedom? Do you have faith God will hold you in the hollow of His hand, or do you allow yourself to be sacrificed for the good of others?

Sure, you could go research this online to find out what happened (the film is remarkably exact) but I suggest you go see it yourself this weekend. It is showing in theaters throughout the state of Utah first, to hopefully propel it nationwide. I hope they make it. It's one you really don't want to miss.
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4/10
I served a mission in Russia. This was horribly done.
droubs4210 April 2021
The acting is subpar, the cinematography is lacking, and the Russian is not understandable. It's very clear that they didn't have any help with the language. Overall not put together well. Go ahead and skip.
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10/10
Amazing Story!!!
jakelawvideo9 October 2013
The Saratov Approach although it is based on a true story of 2 LDS Missionaries, is an uplifting, and brilliant story featuring a strong male lead for any Chrisitan, religious or even non-religious people. It excites and leaves you sitting on the edge of your seat nearly the whole time with different twists and turns that take you on an epic adventure through mystery, thrills, and dramatic events! I love this movie and highly recommend if for nearly anyone. But I especially recommend it for aspiring future LDS Missionaries and their entire family. But I must warn that it IS rated PG-13 for a reason, I would not recommend anyone under the age of about 10 years old to see it. I loved this movie and its story. I hope it goes far!
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7/10
Excellent inspirational film
purplelilskye24 September 2017
From one humble Christian's perspective...

Language level: 1 out of 5 Nothing objectionable.

Sexual level: 0 out of 5 Absolutely none.

Violence level: 2.5 out of 5 Some fighting, being held at gunpoint, etc. May not be suitable for children under the age of 13.

Personal Thoughts: An excellent inspirational film, with a message of Christian hope.
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9/10
Great, if you're religious
yacoubean21 August 2014
I am a religious person, and also a Mormon (or, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). I really liked this movie. Many of the reviews here are from people who obviously have an ax to grind against mormonism. If you don't like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, then don't watch this movie! But, if you are an open minded Christian (or any religious person, for that matter) who would like to see an inspiring movie that is based on a true story, this movie is for you. Yes the film is a little preachy, so if that bothers you then steer clear.

The movie is a little slow at parts, but there is plenty of suspense. The main actors do a superb job, especially the Russians.
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10/10
Out of the Park!!!
rodeab-308-71821618 October 2013
Brilliant from stem to stern! Every element was simpatico from script to editor; a melding together of time and true talent. The script was tight, the story a true journey into tears and heart pounding suspense, insightful directing, honest and actual actors, skilled cinema photography, and editing that kept the 4th wall out of the shot. I was blown away that 'Red' cameras were used, only the most advanced cameras in Hollywood today – need I say "The Hobbit". Truly, through and through, the first real theatrical, professional film from, what outsiders call, "Mormon Film Makers". I served in Ukraine on my mission (as a volunteer, as all missionaries, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) at the time of the portrayed events and know some of the people, I went there again tonight.
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8/10
Not bad for being an LDS film
tomasbat8 January 2018
As a film that turned out to be better than I expected, I actually enjoyed the Saratov Approach. With a low budget, a somewhat niche target audience (the movie was initially released only in Utah, a state with a majority Mormon population), and little source material, the film delivered pretty well. Of course, the film will naturally appeal more to Mormons/Christians in general, but I didn't feel it was overly preachy or pretentious to the point of being unwatchable. Some have complained about the length of the film and a sense that most of the time "nothing really happens". To be honest, at no point did I feel that the movie dragged.

The acting, the pacing, the camerawork, the score... They're all ok (not outstanding by any means, but fine) and the film works out. The film isn't a breakthrough and it isn't terrible, it's just a decent thriller with a religious/"feel good" twist to it, and it is good for what it is. If you enjoy these types of films, you'll probably enjoy this one. Something I particularly liked about the film is that you could sympathize with the kidnappers and that they actually had something of a backstory. And the two missionaries had pretty good chemistry.

There aren't that many good LDS films out there and this is definitely one of the better ones.
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8/10
A good portral of a true story
lexidietrich-4387015 July 2018
I had watched interviews with the boys this even happened to, so much of the plot was familiar going in.

There are preaching moments, they are mormon missionaries after all, but none of it is ever jammed into the story. It all flows very naturally.

Overall a solid film. The camera works was intreasting, 3 outta the 4 main actors did fantasic. The music felt a little repeatitive, but that was my biggest issue with this movie.

All of the preaching furthered the story, so it gets a pass. The 8/10 rating is well deserved as I watched this movie twice in a row and enjoyed it both times.
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2/10
Low-budget B-movie with a predictable plot.
argrig10 June 2014
A noticeably low-budget B-movie that is challenging your suspension of disbelief.

It was probably filmed in Ukraine (since it's cheaper, I guess) and all the billboards and labels in "Saratov" are actually not in Russian, which is extremely annoying. (Imagine a movie showing New York, where everything is written in German. The "Russian" guy in one of the scenes can't even pronounce the word "christian" properly). When the characters enter a typical panel-block house in "Saratov", we end up seeing your typical Brooklyn lobby. This series of flukes never ends.

The plot itself is predictable and spread out. The first 20 minutes of the film could easily be conveyed in 2 minutes. The rest of the movie maintains this ratio.
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10/10
Wow - compelling story telling
rob-146221 October 2013
For me, if a film's heart (story) is forced or not compelling - it really doesn't matter what 'sweeteners' are put on top. It is lacking. I am pleased to report that this film is solid thru and thru. Starting with a great re-told story of real events, we understand more than just the 'facts' - like a good book, I got into the heads of both captors and cap-tees. I felt all their struggles and coming to grips with their situation. In short I felt I was living this out watching it. Never once was I taken out of the moment. I hear that the budget was low on this film but never 'felt' this. The acting, photography, and music just seem so high quality. I highly recommend this film.
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10/10
I just wanted to clarify something.
prestonlwebber2 February 2020
So I don't think the only other reviewer realized that it's a true story so the "predictable B movie" plot is actually based on actual events. Plus it was filmed in Utah so I don't think the guy actually did any research. It didn't seem fair to bring down the score so much because some guy was dumb. So yeah, I liked it. Made me cry. Good movie, though I may be partial because I'm LDS soo...
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10/10
Moved
melissabllrd21 October 2013
Its hard to come up with the words that adequately describe my feelings during the movie. I laughed, I cried, I said "Amen" during their prayers...I was definitely moved.

I encourage all of you to go see the movie. Although it is based off the LDS experience of serving a mission I really think that it appeals to those of any religion. It is a really strong story of faith...faith in Heavenly Father, faith in the power of prayer, faith in your family and friends and church and most of all faith in yourself, Gods plan for you and His ability to provide.

It was also very refreshing to talk to one of the missionaries the movie was based on and to hear him say that this movie was pretty spot on in regards to the events that took place.
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1/10
How to ruin a good story on film
byroncbarker8 January 2014
First of all, before I get attacked for this review, I want it known that I am LDS. That said, I'm not the type of LDS blindly submissive follower, I'm of the free-thinking variety and as such, this is not a critique of the story or religion. as a person who studied film production in a major university, however, I must say this is one of the most poorly made films I have ever seen in a very long time.

The story is fine, if you can get past the mostly-awful acting, intrusive music, continuously shaky camera work - obviously in competition for the largest number of nauseated viewers since 99's 'The Blair Witch Project' and quite a bit of filler involving 1990's basketball references and ineffective waiting family scenes, you might actually enjoy it.

The film has its moments, two exactly, but the other 100 minutes are not worth watching for those brief moments of redemption. Had this film been made another way, it could have really been something, the basic story is good, the script, screenplay and film production isn't up to par, even considering other low-budget films.

Personally, I wish I would have just bought a ticket to see 'Saving Mr. Banks' or 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' again.
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6/10
Almost as good as Saints and Soldiers
jedi-bob-582-18058312 October 2013
I like the direction that LDS cinema is starting to take. I heard about this movie from my uncle, who had just finished his mission in Russia when this story was happening, so he had some close personal connection to it. And the film turned out about like I expected it to, which is not a bad thing.

The first thing audiences will notice is the excessive use of hand-held camera, Bourne-style but in the wrong genre of film. Hand-held was a good choice generally, but every single shot was bobbing and moving around, often so much that it pulled me out of the story and reminded me that there's a camera in the room, a camera that won't sit still.

The next thing I noticed was that the camera assistants were not that good--focus was noticeably soft on a bunch of the shots, and many of the rack focuses were either too fast or too slow. I have worked on plenty of student productions that did much better than that.

The screenplay was pretty decent, actually. I am a screenwriter, so this is the area I pick on most closely, and they did all right. I felt like they relied too much on tears and violins to create emotional tension, but that happens in every single LDS film so I won't complain about that. I would have done some things differently, like not shown the ex-missionary who calls the parents, or given the parents something to do other than mill around the house looking concerned and/or crying. But the story moves forward in a way that builds tension and sets the stakes high, but allows room for some powerful moments.

On the whole, I would set this movie on the shelf right next to Saints and Soldiers. LDS cinema in general hasn't gotten to the point where it can really compete with Hollywood, but as far as LDS cinema goes The Saratov Approach is a pretty solid addition.
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1/10
I had to turn it off after an hour.
aubrey-viu10 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is no more that a crafty sermon.

It hooks you in by appealing to your emotions and a flashback sequence, but doesn't deliver anything other than segues into Sunday school lessons and prayer time. I don't know the original story, so I cannot compare it to that. The worst part is that this movie seemed like it could have been so much better.

The score is distracting, incessant, and out-of-place; The writing is nothing original (some parts of it are ~2000 years old!); and you have ~30 year old actors playing 19 and 20 year old characters, which is also very distracting.

I was convinced to watch this movie by the reviews on IMDb.com, and you should really avoid making the same mistake I did.
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10/10
I loved this film
brynstclair9 October 2013
Wow great job with this one. I was a bit skeptical and unsure going into the movie because of the subject. Would the film makers incite violence on other missionaries? Would the story be enough to keep the film moving the whole time? I was not disappointed. The filming was beautiful, the subject was difficult and bravely done without cliché. The story was inspiring and gripping. From the trailer I questioned the actor selection, but the balance of the actors ultimately was a huge success of the film. Great bad guys, great good guys and the twist at the end was unexpected and so interesting. I'll see this film again and I'd like to take some friends.
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9/10
Exciting and inspiring true story
amy-strickling11 October 2013
This movie is a thrilling tale of two LDS missionaries who were abducted and held for ransom in Russia 15 years ago. I am quite familiar with events of their dramatic tale on a personal level so I was very nervous to see the film. Despite the small cast of characters and low budget production, the movie had me interested and on the edge of my seat from the first to the last scene.

Most of the movie takes place in the location where the missionaries are held captive, occasionally showing scenes of how the kidnapping is making news and affecting communities back in the US. The acting of both the missionaries and the abductors is impressive, the emotions of each character palpable.

The movie is an excellent combination of suspense, action, inspiring moments and even provides a few laughs. An impressive production!
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