It’s not that Atom Egoyan’s The Captive is a bad film. It’s not exactly. Rather, it’s a painfully boring film, populated by one-dimensional and uninteresting characters who recite words from their scripts as if someone has a gun to their loved ones. It tries ever so resiliently to tell a story that a lot of parents would pay attention to (pedophilia), but gets way too caught up in itself. The story spans 8 years, and Egoyan is merciless in his dissected chronology, which jumps back and forth and every which way without warning. We try to spot physical differences in the characters to reorientate ourselves along the way, but when Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos look exactly the same from start to finish, heaven knows it’s a futile endeavour.
Reynolds and Enos play Matthew and Tina Lane, an unhappy couple in Canada who lose their daughter Cassandra (Peyton Kennedy) after ice skating practice one day. Lost. Kidnapped. Stolen. Doesn’t matter. She’s gone.
Two detectives are assigned to their case: 1) A veteran played cool and collected by Rosario Dawson, and 2) A recent transfer from homicide played by Scott Speedman, whose character, Jeffrey, could throw himself at the camera and still not be noticed. Their suspicious gaze quickly falls on Matthew, who Jeffrey points out has been in debt for a while and could desperately use his daughter’s ransom money. But his theory has three holes: First, it is borrowed wholesale from Fargo (1996). Second, there’s no ransom to speak of. Third, the movie he is in makes the fatal error of running a parallel plot thread of grown-up Cassandra (Alexia Fast) living quasi-harmoniously with her kidnapper, Mika, so we know instantly that Matthew is innocent, that Cassandra is alive, and that the detectives are barking up a tree a few thousand miles from the right one. I’d make a case for sloppy writing, but I think The Captive does that for me. All suspense is immediately withdrawn.
Movies about abductions rely primarily on the audience not knowing who the abductor is. They work as psychological puzzles. Or if the abductor is known, as in The Silence Of The Lambs (1991), pleasure can be had in trying to determine if his or her latest victim will survive. Another problem with The Captive is that its villain is not sinister enough. In fact, he’s barely human enough. As played by Kevin Durand, Mika is a mumbling nebbish who sneaks around his chic house and occasionally has faux intellectual conversations with Cassandra. It’s hard to tell, but he possibly begins to like her, which means he won’t kill her, which means her survival is assured. Again, suspense withdrawn. The movie reaches a point where we don’t really care if Cassandra is reunited with her family. She seems content being cordial with the bad guy.
The Captive is a difficult movie to enjoy, if “enjoy” is the right word. Egoyan seems too enraptured by his sombre approach and style to be worried about entertaining his audience. The setting, which is a perpetually snowy, windy and bleak Canada, creates a very bland canvas on which our eyes have to settle. There’s very little detail in the corners. Very little colour and contrast. It’s not a pretty picture, which I suppose is intended. But nothing of The Captive is particularly pretty. The dialogue seems muffled at times; I found myself straining to pick up words. There are strong performances, especially from Reynolds and Fast, but they are counterbalanced by performances that border on self-righteous parody — Kevin Durand was better in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). That’s right. The one where he played an extremely fat guy.
In a spring of big blockbusters like Interstellar (2014) and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014), and of tucked away gems like Whiplash (2014), you might want to experience something a bit more low key. In another lifetime, The Captive could have been that movie. Not here though. In this lifetime, it’s a movie that should be avoided altogether. Do yourself a favour and watch Fargo again instead.
Best Moment | Nope.
Worst Moment | No one Worst Moment.