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Film / The Saratov Approach

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The Saratov Approach is a 2013 independent film based on the true story of two Mormon missionaries in Russia who were kidnapped and held for ransom in 1998. The missionaries, Elder Andy Propst and Elder Travis Tuttle, were held captive for five days.

This work provides examples of:

  • A House Divided: Sergei and Nikolai frequently argue. Well, more like Sergei gets angry with Nikolai for things like forgetting to lock the door, not checking who's at the door, and being too kind to the Elders.
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  • Bad End: Elder Tuttle's nightmare, which ends with him getting shot in the head by Sergei after attempting to escape.
  • Banging for Help: The missionaries attempt this when they're assaulted in the apartment. Unfortunately, the kidnappers were playing an action movie in the same room with the volume turned way up.
  • Based on a True Story
  • Bathroom Break-Out: Elder Tuttle attempts this in a dream. It doesn't end well.
  • California Doubling: The scenes of the Elders walking around Russia in the first part of the movie were actually filmed in Ukraine. Then there's the house where the Elders are held captive, which was filmed in Utah.
  • Chained to a Bed: How the missionaries spend most of the movie.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Sergei's tattoo.
  • Cooperation Gambit: Sergei and Nikolai in kidnapping the Elders for ransom. Later Nikolai and the Elders to just end the whole nightmare they've found themselves in.
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  • Exact Words/Tempting Fate: Elder Propst, while they're handcuffed to the heater, asks if they can have some chairs. Naturally, Nikolai chains a couple of folded-up chairs to the heater with them, making them even more uncomfortable.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Sergei.
  • Friendly Enemy: Nikolai. Perfectly willing to let the missionaries out for bathroom breaks, offer them drinks, and debate the merits of different basketball players with them.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Nikolai helps the Elders devise a plan to get free, and Sergei has a change of heart and sets the Elders free when he sees the tattoos drawn on their hands.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the end, Propst and Tuttle urge their families not to pay the ransom, intending to die to protect others from sharing their fate. Fortunately, they don't have to die, as Sergei lets them go free.
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  • The Missionary: Propst and Tuttle.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The Elders are on the receiving end when they're ambushed in the apartment.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Nikolai by the end. He thought the ransom would have been paid by day five and only wanted quick money to help him and his pregnant girlfriend. He doesn't want to keep the missionaries hostage anymore, and leaves behind the pen from the final goodbye letters so that the missionaries can draw Sergei's tattoo on their hands.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: The Elders, though it takes a while, are sympathetic to Sergei and Nikolai, a disillusioned ex-soldier and an ordinary guy who just needed money for him and his pregnant girlfriend, respectively.
  • Tattooed Crook: Sergei. It's from his time as a soldier.
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