Directed by: Jerry Jameson
Premise: Based on a true story, a single mother (Kate Mara) struggling with drug addiction is held hostage by an escaped murderer (David Oyelowo).
What Works: Captive is led by two very good actors. Kate Mara plays a recovering meth addict who has recently moved into a new home and whose daughter has been removed from her custody. The scenes in the film focusing on drug addiction are quite good and Mara plays the struggle for sobriety with quiet intensity. The scenes between mother and daughter (Elle Smith) are effective and the family relationship puts something palatable at stake, placing the audience on the side of wanting her to recover. David Oyelowo is also quite good as the escaped convict. This man is a psychotic murderer but Oyelowo imbues him with enough humanity to make him more than a criminal. Captive is a story that sits firmly in the tradition of women-in-danger movies but this particular film takes some unexpected turns. Captive includes the kinds of scenes typically found in hostage narratives, such as a driving scene in which the kidnapping is nearly exposed, but it also has moments that subvert the audience’s expectations.
What Doesn’t: There are quite a few problems with Captive but the most critical flaw is that the movie is never very involving. Captive is really boring. There is a distinct lack of tension and the stakes of the story loosen as it gets to the end instead of ratcheting tighter. Some of this is due to the facts in the true case upon which Captive is based. This story besets itself with an uphill battle; the movie introduces David Oyelowo’s character as a rapist and murder who kills several people in an escape from a courthouse. The movie wants us to go from despising and fearing this man to wanting him to survive and surrender himself to authorities. That requires us to care about the outcome but the film and the character are never able to recover from the early images of this man murdering so many people in cold blood. Given his record and callous regard for civil society and human life, it is debatable whether we should even want this man to make it out alive and whether he deserves that consideration. But this is the crux of the picture and the film intends to be a story of grace, forgiveness, and redemption. Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life is the key prop in the movie. Kate Mara’s character is given a copy of the book at her rehab meeting and during her captivity she reads random selections from The Purpose Driven Life in which the primary message is that people should submit themselves to the will of the almighty. The movie forces the spiritual theme. It does not emerge organically out of the story. The transformation occurring in these characters is internal and the filmmakers never find meaningful ways to visualize their change. Mara’s character, who was just hours ago snorting meth, suddenly has the fortitude to resist drugs and Oyelowo’s character, who had fatally shot multiple people in his escape, now considers surrender. The transformation is unbelievable in the context of this movie. Instead of inspiring spirituality, Captive comes across as a crass promo for Rick Warren’s book, especially when clips from an Oprah segment on this story play over the end credits. Captive is also unimpressive in its filmmaking. The picture has the production values of a Lifetime television movie and the filmmakers don’t make effective use of space, given that the bulk of this story is about a woman trapped in her apartment with a murderer.
Bottom Line: Captive is not very successful at anything. Despite the efforts of the central cast, the story is not exciting and the filmmakers’ attempt at spiritual inspiration falls flat.
Episode: #561 (September 27, 2015)