The Captive (2014) – Review

Directed by Atom Egoyan
Written by Atom Egoyan, David Fraser
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Rosario Dawson, Mireille Enos, Scott Speedman
Eight years after the disappearance of Cassandra, some disturbing incidents seem to indicate that she’s still alive. The police and her parents will try to unravel the mystery of her disappearance.

There are quite a few writers out there that really don’t have a great deal of good things to say about the human condition. Atom Egoyan is surely one of those people. His last film, The Devil’s Knot, raked over old ground already well traveled, concerning the murder of innocent boys by three local young men. It was unsavoury and many also called it unnecessary, potentially opening old wounds on real life events that had been done better by several documentaries previously. Essentially, it was a story that didn’t need re-telling.
My only other dalliance with his work was with the somewhat lascivious Chloe, starring Amanda Seyfried as the girl who tries to seduce another woman’s husband at the wife’s request, to see if he will wilt under her charms. It seems Egoyan likes to test the will of his characters, who invariably are not worthy of the task set before them, choosing lust or violence or crime instead of taking a higher road.
Here Egoyan turns his attention to an altogether more fictional tale, but no less unsettling for its content. In fact, if you compare this and The Devil’s Knot especially, there is little difference for the uninitiated to tell them apart. Both are dark, unpleasant examples of the cruelty and perversity of man against the weak that should really be able to trust them. In short, Egoyan doesn’t rate us all too highly. That much is abundantly clear. 
Regardless of Egoyan’s seeming inability to move away from the type of subject matter that will make people squirm, you cannot argue that he does indeed set a convincing scene for the most part. In a windswept nowhere town that will remind most viewers of Fargo, both movie and television series, we are presented with a mostly bright, cold vista. The weather is permanently inclement and usually snowing. This may well be a purposeful choice on Egoyan’s part, maybe to reflect on the harsh realities that we are dealing with.

When Cassandra, the daughter of Matthew (Reynolds) and Tina (Enos) is abducted from the back of Matthew’s truck when he leaves her alone for a matter of minutes, so begins the story of the determination and trials of both police (Dawson and Speedman) and her parents to try and track her down, hopeful that she is still alive. The next eight years of this story are told, jumping backwards and forward in time to give the audience snippets of useful information by which to piece this mystery together.

Egoyan takes his characters on a roller-coaster of emotions and thankfully all of them are up to the task, performance-wise. Reynolds particularly shines as the bereft, lost and desperate father who blames himself for the loss of his daughter, wracked by guilt and blame from his wife who holds him, somewhat unfairly, accountable for their plight. Egoyan takes a path maybe less travelled by making the victim somewhat complicit over the years and this does dull the shock value for the audience as the heinous crime seems somewhat diminished as the perpetrators don’t seem outwardly evil, although their actions prove otherwise. Add to this that the victim doesn’t seem too emotionally scarred by events, providing further evidence that the drama could have been more thoughtfully designed. An albeit possible realistic consequence of event, perhaps? Well, maybe, but maybe not the payoff we, as an audience were looking for.

Solid acting performances and a mostly intriguing plot that beggars belief at times with a ‘so ridiculous it must be true’ feeling that the actors must have felt suitable incredulity by upon first glance, The Captive is sobering stuff, but never as shocking as the subject matter really deserves. Not to make jest of what is a truly awful crime, but this is paedo-lite for those that abhor the notion but a still made curious by the car-crash ethos behind its existence. An ugly act, made not ugly enough.

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