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Review: The Captive

Much maligned Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan is on a bad run, and won’t get the benefit of the doubt with his latest offering, a melodramatic, almost made-for-TV psychological drama.

The Captive follows a series of stories set across eight years involving the kidnapping of a young girl. Taking us to various points in the grieving and investigative process, from the perspective of the parents, detectives, captor and captive, Egoyan has bits and pieces of a disturbing and introspective tale – but captivating it isn’t.

When the eight-year-old daughter of Matthew (Ryan Reynolds) and Tina (Mireille Enos) is kidnapped from the snowy, empty parking lot of a local diner, the married couple deals confront each other and the loss. Meanwhile, new recruit Jeffrey (Scott Speedman) and Nicole (Rosario Dawson) tackle the case from the police side of things, specializing in cases involving children.

Effectively playing with time without ever directly telling the viewer, Egoyan chronicles noteworthy events in this procession from the moments leading up to the abduction, and then again three, six, and eight years in. As the time shifts, so does the tone and level of intrigue, for better and worse. Reynolds plays well the beleaguered father, a grizzled blue collar Canuck blamed for the kidnapping, but the forced relationship between Jeffrey and Nicole is both unbelievable and distracting.

Elsewhere too, it’s a bit too melodramatic and convenient. The kidnapper, an effectively creepy, yet prim and proper Kevin Durand who we never see lay a finger on the young lady, seems to enjoy leaving clues for the grieving mother. As the film plods, we come to understand that this well-manicured pedophile works with others to create a ring, a “gateway” one detective remarks ominously (laughably), to lure in more children.

It’s one of many tangential stories of a film that can’t find a consistent attitude or intent. While individual pieces, scenes, and actors (Reynolds, notably) stand out, some are left in the cold. Though cold it is – set in Canada, between small town Ontario and Niagara Falls, as Captive has a chilly look.

Our characters navigate the cold, and you can’t help but wonder if things would have proceeded quicker were the police work not so shoddy and absurd. “I arrest people,” Jeffrey remarks when introduced to his new colleagues and asked what he does. It’s laughable, as are most of his interactions with others; he tries to be the rogue cop, the quiet genius, and the action hero savoir: he is none of those things.

The mediocrity (and admittedly a handful of genuinely tense moments) gives way to a rushed, contrived conclusion that is in a hurry to finish, while making sure to include elements of as many genres as possible. There are contrived elements of suspense, drama, action, resolution, and hope, and none of it makes sense. It starts to lose control around the point when our cops are targeted by the criminals, losing the heart supplied by Reynolds and Enos and instead opting for police drama procedural.

Better for television – you know, old, cheesy, Lifetime movie television, The Captive tries to do too much when restraint and focus is all that is needed.

[star v=2]

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.