Monday, September 28, 2015



Starring: Kate Mara, David Oyelowo, Michael K. Williams, Lenor Varela, Mimi Rogers, Elle Graham

Rated PG-13 for Mature Thematic Elements involving Substance Abuse

The good news is that the new Christian film "Captive" doesn't pile on the preachiness like "War Room" and no one utters a single Bible verse, unlike last year's monstrosity, "God's Not Dead."  The bad news?  It's dull beyond words.

Ashley Smith (Mara) is a meth addict struggling to stay sober.  Her young daughter Paige (Graham) is living with her Aunt Kim (Rogers) until she can stay clean, but it's a losing battle.  Brian Nichols (Oyelowo) is on his way to a lengthy prison term when he escapes and goes on a killing and carjacking spree that reminded me of "Grand Theft Auto."  He eventually takes Ashley hostage and hides out in her apartment while planning his next move.  Meanwhile, two cops, John Chestnut (Williams) and Carmen Sandoval (Varela) are hot on his trail.

It's a good concept (and, like almost every movie that doesn't involve superheroes or is based on a teen book franchise, it's based on a true story), but there are some big problems.  A bland script, pedestrian direction, and some questionable performances turn what could have been an intense thriller into a snoozefest.

While watching "Captive," I thought of the movie "Turbulence."  Both have similar concepts and suffer from the same basic problem (apart from the obvious one): they don't find a way to capitalize on the psychological tete-a-tete between two people.  But whereas "Turbulence" had the virtue of being so dumb it was funny, "Captive" is simply dull.  It's bad storytelling no matter which way you slice it.

Kate Mara is a good actress and does what she can with a rare leading role.  Ultimately, the script and the direction let her down.  She is, however, the best thing in this movie.  Her co-star, David Oyelowo (who also serves as one of the film's producers), isn't as impressive.  He got Oscar buzz for the grossly overrated "Selma," none of which was deserved.  He's actually better here, although that's not saying much considering how awful he was as MLK Jr.

Their co-stars don't fare much better.  "Stiff" is too kind a word for Michael K. Williams.  He's a decent character actor, but he's so wooden I was afraid he was going to catch fire.  Leonor Varela fares better, but unfortunately Williams has more screen time.

I can't finish the review without mentioning the intelligence, or lack thereof, of the characters in this film.  Just about everyone makes a bunch of stupid mistakes straight out of a horror movie.  Granted, this may have been what happened in real life, but it's the director's job to make it believable.  Or change it to make it more convincing.  Needless to say, neither one of those things happens.

The problem with the film is that director Jerry Jameson fails to make the film feel real.  It's not that the film is afraid of going into dark places (the violence is surprisingly brutal and it doesn't shy away from drug use), but that he can't get us to care.  "Captive" is a shallow, uninvolving experience.

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