The Trap (2007)
"THE TRAP" is a modern film noir reflecting the true face of Serbian (Eastern European) 'society in transition.' It's a story that could happen to you. It is a film about an ordinary man, who is forced to choose between life and death of his own child. THE TRAP is a film about post-Milosevic Serbia, in which there is no more war, but there is moral and existential desert, about Serbia in transition, in which human life still isn't worth a lot, about normal life which still seems unreachable.
- The film opens with Mladen Pavlovi (Neboja Glogovac), sporting bumps and bruises on his face, nervously smoking a cigarette while talking to the unrevealed individual(s) in an unidentified time frame. Among other things, he says that he is trying to "do this one thing right, after a series of wrongs that never should have happened".
The movie occasionally returns to the scene of Mladen talking to the unseen individual(s) and discussing different details following key plot points or displaying inner torment over the unfolding story.
Mladen is a young professional residing in Belgrade where he works as a construction engineer in a decrepit state-owned company that's undergoing the process of privatization. He drives a beat-up Renault 4 and rents an apartment with his wife Marija (Nataa Ninkovi) who teaches English in primary school. Together they're raising their only child - an 8-year-old boy named Nemanja. Despite limited means, they're still managing to make ends meet and provide for their son. They arrange and lead a fairly normal and happy family life - cheering Nemanja on at swim meets and taking him to the local playground where Mladen becomes acquainted with the blond neighbour (Anica Dobra) who also brings her daughter to play there.
However, everything drastically changes one day when Nemanja is rushed to the hospital following a collapse at gym class in school. After emergency reanimation procedure, he is diagnosed with a heart muscle condition that requires immediate surgery since the next inflammation that could come at any time might be fatal. They're further informed by Dr. Luki (Bogdan Dikli) that the procedure is only performed at a clinic in Germany, costs 26,000, and is not covered by domestic health insurance plans.
Faced with the shocking development and the knowledge that they have nowhere near the money required for the surgery, Mladen and Marija look into different ways of coming up with the funds. Mladen applies for a bank loan, but gets flatly rejected due to not owning property and being employed at a bankrupt company. Marija submits an ad in the paper, asking charitable donations for their son's surgery. When informed about it, Mladen confronts her on the issue as he's vehemently opposed to what she did, however, suspecting misplaced ego might be the source of his ire, she simply states that it's not beneath her pride to ask for a handout in this situation. Although they quickly make up, it is obvious that the situation is starting to put a lot of strain on their marriage.
Soon, the family gets a phone call from a man who claims to be interested in helping Nemanja after seeing the ad, but is not willing to discuss the details over the phone so the meeting with Mladen is arranged the next day at the bar in Belgrade's Hotel Moskva. At the meeting, the dapper, well-spoken middle-aged man (played by Miki Manojlovi) says he's willing to pay 30,000 for Nemanja's surgery in addition to plane tickets to Germany. Furthermore, he says that all he wants in return is for Mladen to murder someone, seeing him as the perfect candidate to carry out the crime due to not having any prior record and being an honest, hard-working man whom no one will suspect. Counting on Mladen's dismayed initial reaction, the man tells him to think it over and says he'll contact him in two days.
Coming back home, Marija is eager to hear how the meeting went, however Mladen doesn't mention the shocking offer he received, simply dismissing the man he met with as "some nutcase". Although very much tempted, at this stage Mladen hopes that he never gets a call from him again, and in search of money even looks up an old colleague from university days (Vojin etkovi) who in the meantime managed to do OK for himself through a private business designing kitschy suburban palaces for the nouveau riche despite not even being an architect. The friend quickly rejects Mladen, telling him he's doesn't have the money right now.
Two days later, as he announced, the mysterious man calls from the moving car inquiring about the decision and torn Mladen tells him unconvincingly that it's a no go. Sensing doubts in Mladen's voice, the man tells him to give it more thought and informs him that everything needed to carry out the murder will be in a plastic bag placed in the electrical closet underneath the Branko's Bridge, and tells him to pick it up at 7am the next morning. Lying in bed that night, tormented Mladen attempts to get some input and advice from Marija by saying he's got something important to tell her while looking ready to finally clue her in on what's going on. However, following his long introduction, she decisively interrupts him, thinking he's about to tell her what's bothering him in general. She further tells him to concentrate on Nemanja rather than on himself.
In the morning, Mladen shows up at the bridge and finds the plastic bag containing a loaded gun and a letter stating that the instructions along with a cash advance will be in his building mail box the next day. The letter also gives Mladen a contact name Milo Ili along with a PO box number. While Mladen is reading the letter in his Renault, a white BMW is seen leaving the scene.
One day later, Mladen takes Nemanja to school who's bothered by the fact that all the kids in his class saw the ad. On the way back Mladen finds 3,000 cash in the mail slot along with the photo ID and the address of the man he's supposed to murder. The target is Petar Ivkovi and he's the owner of Mopex Trade company. Using the instructions he's been provided about Ivkovi's habits, Mladen scopes out his apartment and watches him enter his Toyota Land Cruiser 100 series SUV to go to work in the morning. Along with a well dressed man, Mladen also spots a blond woman and a little girl running to embrace Ivkovi - obviously his wife and daughter. Upon closer look, Mladen realizes they're the blond woman and the girl Nemanja plays and goes to school with. Deeply conflicted, Mladen continues on to work where he takes out his frustration on the office equipment.
Soon, Nemanja has another heart episode and is rushed to the hospital again, but this time the doctor wants him to stay for observation, repeating that the surgery needs to be done as soon as possible. The new development puts even more strain on Mladen and Marija, as they ponder the future course of action without any talking at home during night while taking turns being with Nemanja at the hospital during the day. Both realize that something needs to be done fast. Mladen is mulling over the preparations for the murder, none of which can be discussed with her, while Marija is growing impatient with what looks to her like his lack of action and answers.
Finally, late one night while Marija is at the hospital watching over Nemanja, Mladen drinks a glass of water, packs a gun, and goes out into the night. At the same time while he is waiting in front of Ivkovi's apartment, Nemanja gets another attack and horrified Marija calls the nurse for help. Meanwhile, Ivkovi's SUV pulls up, he exits, Mladen approaches him and following a short verbal exchange fires a succession of bullets, killing him instantly. Simultaneously, Nemanja is fighting for his life as his pulse is dropping, but the doctors somehow manage to stabilize his condition. After the murder, distraught Mladen is back home where he hides the gun and compulsively cleans his clothes that got dirty on a drizzly night. Emotionally drained Marija also arrives home and gets very angry to see hapless Mladen after the rough night she endured. Perplexed and completely disconnected from each other, they're barely on speaking terms. She finally implores him to say and do something in order to start dealing with this situation, but distracted and overwrought with guilt over what he did, he just tells her to move away from him. From that night they start sleeping in separate beds.
During Petar's funeral, Mladen watches the procession from a distance and sees the man who hired him giving condolences to Petar's widow Jelena. Petar's brother (played by Vuk Kosti) gives an emotional and impassioned speech vowing to find the killers and get revenge.
Mladen next wants to collect the rest of the money agreed upon after the murder, but has troubles reaching the man at his cellphone. He also sends a letter to the contact PO box, but finds out that it doesn't even exist. Mladen realizes he was used by the man about whom he only knows the fact that he knew late Ivkovi. To that end, Mladen starts following Ivkovi's widow hoping to get some leads, but only finds her collapsing on a park bench while taking her daughter out to play. Mladen takes her to the hospital and after coming to she tells him that she took a little more bensedin (sedation drug) than usual and that she didn't want to kill herself despite the fact that even the doctors don't believe her. She finds comfort in talking to someone who is not form her late husband's "business" milieu. She tells him she is aware that she's receiving phony condolences from many of her late husband's friends and is convinced the murderer came from there. She also lets on that she knows her husband to have been involved in all kinds of dodgy stuff by saying that all of them knew his one side, but adds that he was the love of her life and was wonderful to the daughter and her. Deeply conflicted and torn, Mladen is visibly troubled with the fact that he's listening and comforting the woman whose husband he just killed. While she's thanking him for all he's done for her, his conscience can't take it anymore and he excuses himself and quickly leaves.
Mladen's descent continues. Tormented by guilt and crushed by the fact he can't collect the rest of the money, he stumbles around the city drunk and gets into a fight with some youngsters, smashing the windshield of their fancy car. He's taken to the police where he spends the night in custody. Tomorrow, when questioned about the incident with youngsters, he suddenly admits to killing Petar Ivkovi and tells the inspector (Milorad Mandi) every single detail of how it went down. Inspector, however, doesn't believe a word of it and sends Mladen home while admonishing him for wasting the valuable police time on "nonsense".
Mladen comes home where Marija has had just about enough of his mysterious and days-long disappearances. She attacks him verbally for withdrawing inwards, failing to deal with the situation properly, and abandoning his family, calling him a "good-for-nothing weakling". In the middle of her rant, he slaps her across the face.
Later, on as he's entering his apartment building, coming home from the hospital visit to Nemanja, Mladen receives a menacing call from the man. The man threateningly tells him to be careful and act wisely, otherwise he'll let his son die. Mladen is then forced to decide how to save his son while still maintaining some semblance of his humanity.