Review – Captive

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Stars: Kate Mara, David Oyelowo, Michael K. Williams
Director: Jerry Jameson
Certificate: 12A (drug use and “themes” – 15 wouldn’t have been a surprise)
Running Time: 97 mins
Release Date: 25th September 2015

Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo) breaks out of police custody and shoots dead three people. The subject of an enormous manhunt, he lays low in the house of Ashley Smith (Kate Mara), a down-on-her-luck single mother who chose the wrong time to go outside for a smoke. Captive shows how they develop an unlikely bond as the police closed in

Captive is based on a true story, which makes it impossible to criticise the eye-popping implausibility of it all. Nichols and Smith are both damaged individuals, able to find common ground over their absent children, the mistakes they’ve made in life and the ways in which society has let them down. The two leads bring the characters to life well, with Oyelowo in particular bringing a palpable anger to the role and an unpredictability that makes it hard to take your eyes off him. This does have the unfortunate effect of making the supporting players look somewhat one-dimensional by comparison – Michael K. Williams is simply playing “world-weary movie cop” rather than doing anything approaching a convincing portrayal of a real person

The big problem with Captive, however, is the other stuff that Nichols and Smith bond over, namely the redemptive power of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ. The final third of the movie features lots of religious reading from Smith’s drug rehabilitation book, and we see how the power of the words rehabilitates the paranoid, violent Nichols. The problem isn’t that the film starts throwing religion around – there are several hundred million people on the planet who wouldn’t consider that a problem at all – but that it’s tone instantly shifts from gripping, claustrophobic potboiler to gloopy, melodramatic TV movie when it does. The way the film ends hammers home this flaw to a tee

The ‘true story’ defence can only insulate Captive from criticism so much. Clearly it’s a remarkable story, in which real people went through some remarkable things, and you would be doing the people who lost their lives a disservice by diverging too far from it. But the final third betrays Jerry Jameson’s background as a director of low-budget made-for-TV movies; in the hands of someone more adept it would surely have been possible to maintain a greater consistency of tone while still remaining true to the narrative. As things stand, Captive is little more than a mildly diverting missed opportunity which seems destined to be swiftly forgotten

Our Verdict: 5/10


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