***CONTAINS SPOILERS*** When Matthew (Ryan Reynolds) is driving with his eight year old daughter Cass (played at this age by Peyton Kennedy) she is discussing her ice skating partner's use of one black skate, and one white skate. She spends a bunch of time explaining the semantic difference between a trick and a gimmick. The Captive takes the horrific premise of an organised ring of paedophiles that ensnare and enslave young children and turns it into a gimmick.
Cass (Kennedy and eight and Alexia Fast at sixteen) is kidnapped and enslaved for eight years by Mika (Kevin Durand) and what seems to be an underground child sex ring. Although her parents Matthew (Reynolds) and Tina (Mireille Enos) are left ruined in the wake the ring continues to monitor and torment them. The police team lead by Rosario Dawson's Nicole and Scott Speedman's Jeffrey have been on the case for its entire life span and get close enough that the perpetrators want to make them pay for their nosiness.
Director and co-writer Atom Egoyan takes this nightmarish possibility and makes a raft of choices that diffuse and confuse with it. The timeline chops and changes between the present, the incident and several 'check-ins' in between without warning or any signifier that you find yourself attempting to plot out where the hell this particular sequence that you're watching lays against the overarching timeline. There are also decisions that ruin what you may have expected to be the bombs in the story. Comedian Louis C.K often says that when he's generating a new hour of comedy he tries to redevelop his closing 'bit' into a new opening 'bit' for his next hour to cauterize the new hour. Mr. Egoyan and co-writer drop the audience into the deep end of their narrative, so-to-speak, and unfortunately it feels as if nothing that follows reaches the shock and awe of what we're witnessing.
The performances, as their assembled, really take moments that should be tearing your heart out, and turn them into what feel like the actors are being coaxed into embodying an archetype or conveying an emotion. Scott Speedman's Jeffrey has no function other than fit the 'bad' cop that bends the rules. Rosario Dawson's Nicole has been told to watch Law and Order: SVU and 'be that' and Mireille Enos has the brief to stand in rooms alone and lose it as Tina. It's a Rorschach test approach to constructing a performance. Ryan Reynolds gets the opportunity and the space to create a sweet dullard in Matthew, who gets thrown into the figurative meat grinder as a suspect, and must bear the marriage busting weight of losing his daughter. Mr. Reynolds delivers a performance that keeps you invested.
Alexia Fast just does not compute as Cass. Manipulated by Kevin Durand's creepy and softly eccentric (and strangely not mutant, awful monster) Mika, Cass feels as if she's on a holiday at a family members that she doesn't like instead of a girl who has been kidnapped, imprisoned, (and we assume) raped until she became 'over-ripe' and now being used to bait future prey. This obviously lies with Mr. Egoyan (and to a lesser extent Mr Fraser) but it's the most grating element in a film that treats its subject matter with indelicacy.
The Captive feels trivial about something that's heinous; and that's BAD.
[rating=1] and a half
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Atom Egoyan
Written by: Atom Egoyan and David Fraser
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Mireille Enos, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Durand, Alexia Fast, Bruce Greenwood, Scott Speedman, Peyton Kennedy,
Blake Howard is a writer, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief & co-founder of Australian film blog Graffiti With Punctuation. Beginning his criticism APPRENTICESHIP as co-host of That Movie Show 2UE, Blake is now a member of the prestigious Online Film Critic Society, sways the Tomato Meter with Rotten Tomatoes approved reviews. See his articulated words and shrieks (mostly) here at Graffitiwithpunctuation.com and with DarkHorizons.com & 2SER Sydney weekly on Gaggle of Geeks.