The Captive (2014) / Thriller-Drama
MPAA Rated: Not rated but probably PG-13 for violence, thematic material, and language
Running Time: 112 min.
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Durand, Scott Speedman, Mireille Enos, Alexia Fast, Bruce Greenwood, Christine Horne
Director: Atom Egoyan
Screenplay: Atom Egoyan, David Fraser
Review published December 15, 2014
Let it be known that I find a distinct lack of entertainment value for movies in which the subject matter has anything to do with children as prey, aberrant and exploitative sex, graphic rape, or gratuitous torture. If you're going to base a film around any of these topics, you'd better damn well make it worth my while to sit through by having a compelling story, characters, plot, or, at the very least, a way to educate the public on a serious issue. Despite quality thespians and an acclaimed filmmaker in Atom Egoyan (Ararat) at the helm, The Captive, which deals with a child abduction and pornography ring, ends up being none of these things, and subsequently, I felt myself growing increasingly associating my experience with that of its title as part of a "Captive audience", yearning for the sweet hereafter of the closing credits to release me.
Ryan Reynolds (R.I.P.D., Safe House) plays Matthew, an Ontarian father who loses his nine-year-old daughter Cassandra (Fast, Jack Reacher) one day while leaving her in his parked truck while he runs into a store. Rosario Dawson (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Cesar Chavez) plays the lead detective in charge of crimes against children on this case in which Matthew remains a prime suspect. Mireille Enos (If I Stay, Sabotage) is Matthew's wife Tina, who has become distant from her husband due to too many painful memories of the daughter he lost. Kevin Durand (Noah, Winter's Tale) is the abductor, the mastermind of a child abduction and pornography ring whose security and influence is so tight, the authorities have been stumped for many years -- and he has Cass.
The Captive is the brainchild of Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, who continues to produce challenging films that seem to hit and miss with equal measure. Egoyan tackles serious subject matter, and certainly is capable of delivering a thoughtful treatment, but this one seems to be overthought, particularly in the way he handles the villains. It starts off in good form as a mix of family drama and police procedural, but goes off of the rails anytime the villain of the piece, a mysterious pedophile mastermind named Mika, appears on the screen. He would seem to be much more at home as the main crony of James Bond than as anything one could remotely find in a tale about the scariness of a ring of online predators, and his plot, which would necessitate the world's most inept law enforcement to pull off (and we have that here), feels like something borne out of a trashy crime novel.
Unfortunately, given that the thriller plot kicks in for the latter half of the film, which employs such things as cracked security systems, hacked computers, tampered drinks, hidden cameras, women in cages, car chases, and criminal frame jobs, the upper hand is completely lost to cheesy mainstream suspense gimmickry that is both wearisome and distasteful considering the thematic material presented. It's not just enough for the villain to abduct and rape the children, but he also gets off on seeing the anguish on the faces of the parents, toying with them by leaving reminders of the daughter they lost, or cruelly giving them hope and snatching it away. I'm not sure if these developments will make your eyes roll more than your stomach turn, but either way, it's a long way from adequate entertainment for most.
I didn't care for the more critically acclaimed Prisoners, which features a similar story of children being abducted, so you can probably guess what I might feel about The Captive, considering it is considerably worse in pretty much every major detail. With its non-continuous plot, its lurid turns, and its utter cartoonish developments not jibing well with the more thoughtful build-up, all that's left is to admire some decent performances from a respectable cast who are perhaps too motley in vibe to completely mesh. It's too fanciful for a realistic drama, and too rooted in its family tragedy dynamics to enjoy as a thrill ride. The Captive remains caught in an elaborate trap of its own making.
©2014 Vince Leo