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Movie Review: 'Captive'

The religious thriller Captive looks like a Lifetime drama squeezed into Oprah bible commercial.

Review by Matt Cummings

In Director Jerry Jameson's thriller Captive, Ashley (Kate Mara) is a struggling addict who has recently regained custody of her baby daughter. Suffering from a string of failed rehabs, this is Ashley's last chance to reset her self-destructive path before the State steps in. Unfortunately, fate intercedes when the escaped murderer Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo) takes her captive as the police desperately search for him. It's here that the two form an unlikely friendship around pastor Rick Warren’s best-selling book “The Purpose Driven Life,” which Ashley reluctantly begins to read to pass the time. As the police close in, the two must decide if the book's message is worthy of further study, or if they're destined to live shortened, tragic lives.

Unfortunately, Captive never rises above its terse and tragic potential, content instead to mirror a Lifetime drama shot by a guy whose experience is limited to television. This is based on a true story, as the long-winded series of interviews afterwards featuring Oprah Winfrey can attest; but there's little in the way of production value. Scenes are shot way too close to the featured actor, there's no fluidity between scenes, and nothing to tell of the world surrounding Ashley and Brian. In fact, one can feel the hurried nature behind the shooting schedule, as if Jameson himself was under such pressures.

And while the story has potential, it alienates its hard-core religious audience by limiting the book's exposure in an effort to mainstream the message, but never completes the tale enough for average audiences to accept it. Regardless of where you stand on the religious scale, Captive fails to take bold chances with a clunky script by Brian Bird that merely lumbers along. In more capable hands, we could have lived Ashley's incarceration in more vivid detail, but there's never a sense that the capable Mara is ever in any sort of danger. Even when she stupidly gives Brian a snort of Meth, there's always a feeling that the book will return to settle Ashley's nerves and provide the direction it's supposed to before Nichols is re-captured.

Still, there is decent chemistry here between Mara (whose emaciated figure at least looks the part) and the psychologically disturbed Oyelowo. But it should be mentioned that Oyelowo's last project was an impressive portrayal in Selma. How he got to this point proves that the great actor still has a ways to go in selecting the right roles. More importantly, we never really learn whether the backdrop behind Nichol's past is that of a raving lunatic or a man pushed to desperation to see his newborn son. Mara too never gives up much about how she got into the life of Meth, which makes her 'scared-straight' exit all the more hard to cheer. This is the importance which good directors can play, elevating the performances, seeking the hidden truth, and getting the audience behind their characters. By the end, we just couldn't care less.

It's possible this film could have been something more, but instead Captive becomes an advertisement for dime-store religious values. All that's missing is a Walmart commercial with Oprah pimping a huge discount if you bring your movie ticket into the store.

Captive is Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving violence and substance abuse and has a runtime of 91 minutes minus the interviews and special features.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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