Eight years after the disappearance of Cassandra, some disturbing incidents seem to indicate that she is still alive. Her parents and detectives, and Cassandra herself, will try to unravel the mystery of her disappearance.
Director Atom Egoyan seems to be drawn to movies that feature families going through a stressful tragedy. That, of course, was the theme behind his critically acclaimed film, 'The Sweet Hearafter', as well as his last movie, Devil's Knot, which was based on the real-life Memphis 3 case. He once again explores a family's grief in 'The Captive', and while it's by no means a horrible movie, there is a sense here that we're traveling down the same road that Egoyan has explored time and time again in his past work.
Unlike Egoyan's last movie, 'The Captive' is an original story from the director himself, although it certainly tackles a crime that is very much real: the kidnapping and sexual abuse of young girls. Egoyan's best choice as a director in the telling of his story is that he's able to convey the horror of what is happening without making his film exploitive in any way. In other words, even though the audience knows that the girl kidnapped in this movie is being abused by her captor, nothing is ever shown on screen. That's a choice not many working in Hollywood would make these days, so he deserves credit for not going down that path.
The movie is set right across the border in Niagara, Ontario, and stars Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos as Matthew and Tina, a young, middle-class married couple (he's a landscaper, she's a hotel maid) who have a young daughter, Cass (the older version of which is played by Alexia Fast), and older son, Albert (Aidan Shipley). One day, Matthew is driving his daughter home from ice skating practice when he makes a stop at a roadside diner to pick up a pie for dinner. He leaves Cass in the back seat of his truck, but when he returns, she has vanished without a trace.
The investigation is headed up by a pair of police detectives, Nicole (Rosario Dawson) and Jeffrey (Scott Speedman). Almost immediately (and in one of the best scenes of the film), Jeffrey is suspicious of Matthew, and begins to accuse him of being the one responsible for Cass's disappearance. Meanwhile, Tina blames her husband for losing their daughter, which causes a rift in their marriage throughout the span of the movie – which covers about eight years of time.
Unlike most titles in this genre, the audience isn't asked to play a guessing game as to who the kidnapper may be. His name is Mika (Kevin Durand), and he's introduced in the opening scene of the film. What's not known – nor ever really revealed to the audience – is just how deep the ring of pedophiles he's part of goes, or who might be the kingpin of the group he's involved in. One of the more creepy aspects of Mika's crimes is the fact that he and unseen others brainwash the girls they kidnap into helping lure other children via online chats. So Mika not only has Cass working to help him at points in this movie, but a number of other young women who he has 'groomed' over the years.
One of my biggest gripes with Egoyan's film is the choice he makes not to tell his story linearly, but to instead jump back and forth in time between the year Cass first vanished and various points over the eight-year investigation of her disappearance. The problem here is that the director doesn't have any obvious transitions from scene to scene, which is very disorienting to the viewer, as often one won't figure out until a few minutes into the scene that the events they are watching take place much later or much earlier than the last scene they watched. In listening to the commentary, this is something Eroyan did intentionally, to try and give the viewer the same sense of paranoia that the parents in the movie are feeling. It certainly does make the viewer confused, but I'm not sure that it's to the benefit of the movie or its story.
I'm also not sure Ryan Reynolds was the best choice for the lead here. While in some scenes he's very good (like the first time he's interrogated by the police), in most scenes, he's just average and at times has odd reactions to the events going on around him. On the other hand, Enos is very good as the grieving mother, and I particularly liked Speedman's portrayal as a cop who isn't afraid to ask the hard questions, although his distrust of Reynolds' character goes a little over the top at many points.
I can't quite recommend 'The Captive', but it's not totally dismissible, either. It's the kind of movie you might want to catch when it's released on one of the streaming services, or perhaps give it a rental on some rainy weekend when you're looking to watch a movie of this type. I think it's a notch better than Egoyan's last film, Devil's Knot, but it's still a far cry from what we know this director can be capable of delivering.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Captive' is released on home video in this Blu-ray/Digital HD combo pack, which houses the single-layer 25GB disc and an insert for an UltraViolet copy of the movie in an eco-friendly Elite keepcase. A slipcover matching the artwork of the keepcase's slick slides overtop. The Blu-ray is front-loaded with trailers for Revenge of the Green Dragons, Son of a Gun, A Most Violent Year, Wild Card, Vice, and Tusk. The main menu consists of a repeating video of Ryan Reynolds' character driving through the snowy countryside, with menu selections across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is Region A locked.
Note: While this release played just fine on my Oppo stand-alone player, I could not get it to play on my computer's Blu-ray drive (which also prevented me from taking any actual screen captures of the disc for this review – the images you see are promotional shots and do not reflect the actual Blu-ray transfer). So there may be some authoring issues with this release, particularly for those who view titles on their computer instead of with stand-alone players.
'The Captive' was shot digitally on Arri Alexa cameras, and gets a pretty nice transfer to Blu-ray. Almost every outdoor scene in 'The Captive' is set during the winter, which means there are a lot of shots filled with bright whites. Thankfully, the whites never have a 'blown out' look to them, and still convey a lot of detail in each shot. Also, one of my biggest issues with many movies shot on the Arri Alexa is that indoor scenes sometimes come off as both flat and rather dark. That's not much of an issue here either, as most of the indoor stuff remains well-lit and black levels throughout are pretty solid.
Additionally, I noted no issues with banding, aliasing, or similar problems that sometimes creep their way into Blu-ray transfers. While this isn't a stunning or reference-quality picture, it's a solid and good-looking one, with no major complaints.
The only audio option here (other than the commentary track that is part of the bonus materials) is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that more than serves the needs of this movie. Although there are some action sequences as the storyline unfolds, 'The Captive' is primarily a dialogue-heavy movie, meaning most of the sound is focused front and center. The rears are primarily used to enhance the rather somber musical score (from composer Mychael Danna), and there's not much going on in terms of directionality and/or providing an immersive feel for the viewer/listener. The rears are sometimes used for occasional ambient noises, but one needs to listen carefully to notice them. There are no noticeable problems or glitches with the track, but it's not one that really stands out, either.
Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, and Spanish.
Once again, Director Atom Egoyan spends a film exploring the impact of a tragedy on a family, and once again he falls a little short of the emotional mark the concept should leave on the viewer. 'The Captive' is one of those movies where the idea is more interesting than the actual on-screen execution, but that doesn't mean it's not worth at least one viewing. I suggest giving this one a rental.