‘Miracle Fishing: Kidnapped Abroad’ Review: Harrowing Home Videos

The 1994 kidnapping of Thomas R. Hargrove, an American agricultural journalist living in Colombia, already inspired a Hollywood thriller (“Proof of Life,” with Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan). But there’s more suspense in watching the real thing.

Miles Hargrove, one of Hargrove’s sons, shot video throughout the year he and his family spent trying to secure his father’s safe return. Out of those home movies, he has assembled “Miracle Fishing: Kidnapped Abroad,” a documentary that is able to show the Hargroves and a close group of friends and abduction experts as they live through that ordeal.

The footage captures them as they negotiate the ransom, wait out long periods of silence from the kidnappers and even drive bundles of cash around. Poor radio reception interferes with the talks, and decisions have ongoing ramifications. (Was a friend of Miles’s the best spokesman? Is ambiguous evidence that Thomas is still alive good enough?) The kidnappers, subject to broader upheavals in the country, aren’t in a stable position themselves.

Like the best home movies, “Miracle Fishing” is also a psychological study. During waits for news, the family guiltily carries on with dinners and music. When the kidnappers indicate that they will go silent for two months, Hargrove cuts to black and holds it, giving viewers an infinitesimal taste of that agony.

Retrospective voice-over from the participants helps fill out the picture. Few people in this position would think to pick up a camera, let alone keep filming for so long. That makes “Miracle Fishing” a unique and harrowing record.

Miracle Fishing: Kidnapped Abroad
Not rated. In English and Spanish, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes. Watch on Discovery+.

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