The Michigan Times

“Captive” Fails to Captivate

Justin Shanlian

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It’s not every day that  captor and hostage can share a bond, especially if all it takes is reading a book, but that is what the thriller flick “Captive” is based upon.

The film is based on the true life story of Ashley Smith, a recovering methamphetamine addict who is later taken hostage by prison escapee Brian Nichols. Nichols holds Smith hostage for seven hours, but the hours that they share together reading “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren help them both pave their roads to redemption. Smith was given that book during her NA meeting, but dismissed it at first. When she finally picks up that book and begins to read it, not only does it save her life, but it helps her and Nichols find some sort of peace that transcends during the ending of the film.

Golden Globe nominated actor David Oyelowo is cast as the hard-edged and sinister Nichols, which is Oyelowo’s darkest role. Not only does he do well, but his choices as an actor are unconventional. The way he talks, walks and even holds a gun is a little bit off, just like his character. Kate Mara is cast as Smith, and her powerful performance might garner some award consideration in the coming months. She almost plays her role as a silent film star; with the use of those piercing eyes you can almost tell what is going through her mind. Mara as Smith really isn’t sure what next step to take to get away from the crazed Nichols.

However, due to the film’s underwritten characters, hammy dialogue and plot holes, “Captive” just doesn’t pack enough of a punch for viewers.

The film’s highest hurdle was its script and Brian Bird’s  screenwriting skills caused it to stumble. Bird has had over 30 years of experience in the business, including hits such as “Touched by an Angel” and the comedy sitcom “Step By Step.” With that experience he should have a grasp when something just isn’t working on the page, and when the dialogue is stilted, out of place and feels like it belongs in a daytime soap opera. This film’s dialogue is so horrendous it takes you completely out of the story and the drama that is unfolding on the screen.
Oyelowo is on screen for a minimal 20 minutes at the beginning of the film, but says nothing for the first quarter of the movie, which is only an hour and a half long. These issues should not be happening with a director and writer who have been in the game for so many years.

Another major issue that this film has is its supporting actors. They bring this film down to the bowels of movie hell. Michael Kenneth Smith, Mimi Rogers and Leonor Varela are all experienced actors, and have been in a slew of films and television shows, but the way that they deliver the dialogue and act overall is painful to watch.

It is the oddest thing to watch when two really terrific actors give such great performances such as Oyelowo as Nichols, and Mara as Smith. But outside of those two great performances it goes from wonderful A-class acting to terrible dinner theater acting. The supporting actors’ work in this film is so bad, it seems as if “Captive” had two main unit directors. Jameson would obviously direct Oyelowo and Mara, but as soon as they aren’t on screen it would seem that the supporting cast was directed by someone else. This lessened the overall quality of this film.

The production values of this film are second rate. “Captive” did have a  shoestring budget of just two million dollars, and it shows; the overall production values from the sets to the props and even the camera work is unsatisfactory. The shots that set up the next location are pretty bad and some of the worst tracking shots from a helicopter ever put on film. These shots not only are out of focus, but the way that the angles compose shots of Atlanta don’t do that city any justice whatsoever.
Directed by Jerry Jameson, “Captive” has its moments. Unfortunately, this film is so flawed that it really does a disservice to the wonderful caliber of acting that Oyelowo and Mara give in their performances. The film is only worth watching when Oyelowo and Mara are on screen. However, the flaws heavily outweigh the film’s value so it’s not worth sitting through.

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“Captive” Fails to Captivate