THE CAPTIVE – into the abyss

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Canadian director, ATOM EGOYAN, delivers a dark and complex mystery with THE CAPTIVE. A little girl is kidnapped, while her father (RYAN REYNOLDS) goes into a store. The mystery here isn’t who did it. It’s why and how that is so compelling.

The film uses editing techniques to a great advantage, with segments of the story told out of order without any warning. Egoyan doesn’t hold your hand through the journey. He forces you to confront this tragedy head on. He comments on police work, heartbreak, and obsession. The authorities follow procedure and eliminate Reynolds as a suspect first, while precious time ticks away allowing the baddie to create further distance without scrutiny.

Years later, Reynolds’ estranged wife (MIRIELLES ENOS) finds curious objects left behind in the hotel rooms she cleans for a living. These objects connect to their missing daughter. I won’t ruin these sequences here, but when she finds something like her daughter’s she can’t help but remember her. She’s haunted, like our other characters. But we don’t know if it’s false hope, or if the antagonist is torturing the family.

The larger picture develops as we explore the disturbing world of pedophiles on the Internet. The detectives employ several different tactics to investigate the Dark Web. SCOTT SPEEDMAN plays a traditional detective who transfers into the child pornography division under the guidance and rule of ROSARIO DAWSON. Together they weave their way through all the deceptive tactics these perverts employ. Their obsession to find Reynold’s daughter spans years and years. The method of jumping back and forth in time keeps us on our toes, and actually strengthens our emotional bonds with the characters. 

The unique storytelling means we know who the kidnapper is early on, but that never ruins the suspense. This is largely due to the in depth character analysis.

Let’s get into the antagonist…

The acting here from all involved is far above standard. It’s parts of what elevates this picture into Award contender status. CAPTIVE is up for several big Canadian Screen Awards. Each character has several layers to explore. The baddie played by KEVIN DURAND is rather intriguing, despite his extremely disturbing behaviour as “A Watcher”. It’s creepy how matter-of-fact these scenes are. When he talks to a captive there is no menace. Durand is really effective and actually subdued. There is no over-the-top get in your face type of evil here. It’s quiet. It’s invisible. Like these child predators. They are out there, operating in secret, destroying innocence and countless families. 

The movie jumps around the timeline frequently, but is largely told nearly a decade after the kidnapping. This allows us to explore how the tragedy has shaped the parents’ lives, as well as the great effect the case has on the investigators. The more we learn, the deeper this case evolves. The missing girl is just one of many over the years. Before the end, we learn how this secret ring of deviant criminals operates.

The kidnapping concept has surely been done before in movies. Every year we seem to get several revenge based action thrillers based on a kidnapped wife or whatever. And Liam Neeson is in 1/3 of those. 😉 One of the boldest moves here is the focus on emotion rather than revenge. We get a realistic take on this familiar concept. We explore gruesome and dispicable territory we never want to encounter ourselves. Unfortunately, this movie could be a true story. These sort of cases must torment numerous detectives across the country. These cases destroy families.

Instead of a more cliched visceral response like the hero killing the baddie with their bare hands in countless genre films, THE CAPTIVE approaches it all with realism. How would a family really react? How would cops investigate this case? It will take years and years. Hope will be lost. But it can return. The emotional experience is what drives this Canadian film. It examines the inner workings of madness and obsession. The family is driven crazy, just like the authorities are – obsessed with a solution. These same qualities drive the antagonist.

CAPTIVE is a dark thriller, but it never verges into exploitation. It never focuses on violence. It aims its sights on emotion and character. Every role is examined with complex analysis of motives. The non-linear storytelling isn’t the only element keeping this movie fresh. There are also several twists. Events rarely unfold as expected. By the end, you will experience several different emotions. I’d compare this to a dark tale from last year, PRISONERS, from fellow Canadian director Denis Villeneuve.

the captive

CAPTIVE disects the way we investigate crime, the way we react to the guilty, the way we react to the innocent, our ethics, and the ways all of these elements transform the entire community. Ryan Reynolds is the glue here. He connects all the dots. If his performance wasn’t so emotionally effective the whole movie would fall apart. Thankfully, the acting as a whole is impressive and the directing by Canadian legend Egoyan is controlled excellence.

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