Movie Review: “The Captive” – Not Quite Captivating

Written by Jesse Gelinas September 10, 2014

Ryan Reynolds in "The Captive"

It’s the worst fear of every parent on the planet; the loss of a child. It’s an age-old primitive fear ingrained in out DNA. And Hollywood has capitalized on this fear with some effective thrillers over the years. Acclaimed Canadian director, Atom Egoyan strives to capture the absolute horror and helplessness of these fears in his latest film, “The Captive.” Unfortunately, the film’s unorthodox structure causes it to stumble along its broken narrative and never quite hit the chords this type of thriller thrives on.

“The Captive” takes place in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and follows the stories of a number of people. Matthew (Ryan Reynolds) and Tina (Mireille Enos) are the parents of Cass (Alexia Fast), the titular captive. Their daughter has been taken by Mika (Kevin Durand) and held prisoner for almost a decade at the time the film jumps in. Rosario Dawson and Scott Speedman round out the cast as the two detectives on the case. It’s a relatively straightforward narrative, or at least it should be. But the film jumps around its eight-year timeline in such a disjointed manner that it’s actually difficult to keep the story straight at times.

“These people have my daughter!”

The film’s strongest asset is the cast. Ryan Reynolds is at his most vulnerable as Cass’s broken father. Mireille Enos gives a convincing performance as the mother trying desperately to hold it together, while still blaming her husband for the whole ordeal. Scott Speedman even surprises with a relatively solid and enjoyable turn as the antagonizing detective who is sure Reynolds’ character is hiding something. All of them are however outshined by Kevin Durand’s kidnapper. His minimal dialogue means much of his performance is purely physical, and he just creeps the hell out of you in every scene he’s in. Every little movement and quirk just makes him all the more terrifying as you watch his sick game unfold.

"The Captive"

Where the film loses most of its steam is in the writing. A lot of the character interactions are perfectly natural and reasonable, and make for some very engaging and emotional scenes. The elaborate plot however makes it suffer, along with a very strange structure. The film jumps around an eight-year timeline in such random ways it makes the scenes feel very disjointed. You can’t feel the narrative moving because you’re not sure when and what you’re watching. We see present day in the opening scene, before being shown something from a year prior, and then finally the time of the actual kidnapping after that. The film continues to jump, never staying in one time period for more than two scenes, and there’s no text telling us when you are seeing. It’s a shame, because with a tighter script and more streamlined structure this film could have been quite captivating.

“So, you’re saying the bad guys are winning.”

Overall, “The Captive” just feels like a half-finished rehash of other recent kidnapping fare. The ingredients are all there. The solid cast, eerie atmosphere, the air of paranoia, but it all falls flat due to a very poor choice of structure. Atom Egoyan is still a fine director who definitely knows how to get the most out of his cast and his setting, but there’s just something special missing from this latest outing. In the end, “The Captive” won’t linger long in the memory of great Canadian cinema, and that’s probably a good thing.

My Rating: 6/10

poster for "The Captive"

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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