Captive has the unique ability to make itself into an immersive experience. You too will experience captivity for the 90+ minutes this movie is playing.
There are unfortunate religious overtones in the publically accessible recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous that keep people with different religious view or atheists from attending or fully submerging in them. The message is a great one because it emphasizes either moderation or outright abstinence to substances you have a hard time controlling. The religious connotations, like making your actions accountable mainly to an unseen deity don’t work for everyone, so their effect varies depending on the person’s beliefs. Different people learn through different stimuli. Some benefit from a faith-based group environment while others receive a wake-up call when their life is in danger. Captive is the latter of the two, and you would think it would be more exciting, but it has the thrills of watching a religious public service announcement.
I have absolutely no problem with faith-based films. There is an audience for them and they tend to have an optimistic outlook (when they’re not about persecution). What I do have a problem with is a film that doesn’t fully commit to its own message, introducing watered down Christian ideas in an attempt to ride the fence and appeal to both sides. This decision disjointed the feel and made what could have been a fully realized Christian film into a hodgepodge of secular and religious concepts creating chaos on screen and muddling any message from either side.
The writing in this film is one of its weakest aspects. Whether screenplay writer Brian Bird had a difficult time turning this based-on-a-true-story book into a coherent and gripping script or the source material has deep-seated flaws is hard to tell. What is obvious is that this film felt like a small screen feature. Director Jerry Jameson, whose filmography gives away his immense experience with tv movies, brings us another tv movie in this would-be feature. The film is oddly paced, making us feel that at any moment it might cut to black for a commercial break. The visual elements come off as bland and uninspired, never quite complimenting the “enlightening” moments during its spiritual climax.
The saving grace of this film begins and ends with the captivating performances by Mara and Oyelowo. Although their chemistry was peculiar and verging on the Stockholmian, they were able to keep me mildly interested even when their character’s thoughts and actions stopped making sense. I would recommend Captive for the sole purpose of watching Mara and Oyelowo’s great performances, but then I would be condemning you to a sentence like the one I served while watching this film. Just because they serve pudding in prison doesn’t mean you go to prison just to get some. Unless you follow the same logic the characters did in the film, then maybe you would.
RATING: ★★★ (3/10 stars)