Often in film we see many obscure, indie flicks fall at the wayside by audiences for bigger and superficially bigger blockbusters. But almost always these small little films are brilliant pieces of work that are well worth the price of admission. Such is the case here in The Captive, a tense, unsettling film that’s narrative style and intense performances keep you intrigued from start to finish.
The film introduces us to Matthew (Ryan Reynolds) who has all the markings of an abductor: beard, baseball cap, pickup truck and an isolated location, it doesn’t help matters when he pulls over to give a young girl a ride home. But in fact he is a victim of his own loss, his daughter Cassandra (Alexia Fast) was kidnapped eight years ago never to be seen or heard from again. The police (Rosario Dawson & Scott Speedman) are dealing with the investigation but also their own personal demons, and Cassandra’s mother Tina (Mireille Enos) is finding little clues that give her hope that Cassandra may still be alive. There is no real mystery here, as the kidnapper is immediately identified as Mika (Kevin Durand) who is the stuff that gives parents nightmares. The essence of the story is how personal loss twists us into a strange version of ourselves, and how reminders each and every day keep us captive and linked to that loss.
At first, the style of film is confusing, as you don’t really know if you’re at the beginning or end, but as the film progresses you start to piece together the puzzle and like the police in the film get closer and closer to finding Cassandra. Some people might find this annoying but it does help the movie as a whole, and was a welcome change from most stock standard narrative style we see in film today. Strangely, its muddled structure was flawless, creating a sense of tension in a story that had seemingly taken the big mystery away from the start.
All the cast here give great performances in their given roles, with Reynolds shedding his rom-com beefcake status as his role as hopeful father Matthew. His drive for the truth was an honest portrayal of any grieving parent looking for answers, and for most is probably an unexpected choice of role for Reynolds, but a necessary one if he is to be successful in the coming years. Kevin Durand is eerily perfect as the villain, as he is prone to do, and his take on a child predator gave me goose bumps in its effortlessness and precision. His character is never seen on screen being violent or even angry, but it’s the quiet, unsettling moments he has, especially with Cassandra, that are the tensest, because you know just what he is capable of.
Because The Captive sheds light on such a taboo topic and is so grim in its premise and nature, I expected the ending to be entirely different. Without giving too much away, it was a little too neatly packaged, and almost rushed, as if director Atom Egoyan realised he was pushing for time and just figured he would wrap it up now. After setting such a simmering tension for 90% of the movie, I was unexpectedly disappointed with how it ended, and would much rather have it finished on a more realistic tone.
In any thriller, the tension level has to be gaining speed for it to be interesting on any level. Here the tension is sickening in its slow pace, but that is perfect given the plot. Although sombre in every meaning of the word, The Captive is a film well worth seeing this year, and hopefully doesn’t fall victim to the indie stigma that general audiences seem to view as boring, because this movie is anything but.
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