It’s 1996 and a Japanese business executive journeys to an unnamed South American country (probably Peru) ostensibly to consider opening a factory but really for the opportunity to hear his favourite opera diva sing.

But things go terribly awry when rebels take over the large home where the dignitaries have gathered, an event the country’s president has serendipitously skipped to watch his favourite telenovela. The rebels decide to let the women go except for Roxanne Coss, when they realize the prize they have in an international superstar.

But the government — probably as corrupt and oppressive as the rebels allege — are not about to show weakness, so a long siege ensues, during which Stockholm Syndrome sets in and the rebels and their captives begin to see each other as people rather than adversaries.

Obviously there’s no opportunity to explore every character’s storyline, but some interesting relationships do develop, including one between the opera singer and the Japanese tycoon, her most ardent admirer, and between his interpreter Gen and a young rebel woman whom he surreptitiously begins to tutor.

Director Paul Weitz does a fine job of keeping the story moving along as days and then weeks pass, as water is cut off and then restored, and as everyone inside the compound begins to imagine they may be there forever.

Julianne Moore offers a luminous performance as Roxanne and there’s some really superb supporting work in small roles, especially Ryo Kase as Gen and Maria Mercedes Coroy as star-crossed lover Carmen. Tenoch Huerta brings nobility and anguish to the role of the leader of the rebels.

As the siege wears on, the film understandably loses some of its momentum. But the climax, almost lyrical in its brutality, packs an emotional punch that will leave audiences breathless.

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