The Captive (2013)
Written by Atom Egoyan & David Fraser
Directed by Atom Egoyan
In rural Ontario, a young girl named Cass vanishes from the back of her dad’s truck. Her father, Matt, and mother, Tina spend the next eight years going through stages of grief and disbelief about the well-being and whereabouts of their daughter. Detectives Cornwall and Dunlap pursue the case as part of their assignment on the Child Exploitation division and discover Cass being used as bait to lure other young girls into a child predator ring. The various people involved in this complex web slowly spiral closer and closer, with Matt pursuing who he believes to be the man behind his daughter’s kidnapping.
I honestly hate this movie. I have always been a lukewarm fan of Atom Egoyan. I thought The Sweet Hereafter was fine, but the rest of his work that I have seen has continually left me annoyed. This particular film has the problem of becoming insanely overly complicated when it could have been a more muted, subtle story about parental grief. Instead, we are given an underdeveloped melodrama about a secret society of child kidnappers who…force them to play Mozart and read their terrible poetry? I am not kidding.
When we first meet Mika, the leader of this kidnapper ring, he has teenaged Cassie locked up in a basement room where he is forcing her to learn to play Mozart. He also has cameras installed in every room where Lisa works in as a maid at a nearby hotel. While Lisa cleans, Mika has Cassie read out his horrendous poetry as a voiceover on top of the CCTV footage. It is very lightly implied that Cassie has actually been physically harmed or raped and it feels like Egoyan is uncomfortable with the very subject matter he chose to feature in his film. No one is expecting him to show anything, but at least have detectives at some point discuss what is going on. From a purely external level of viewing Mika just seems like a lunatic, not a child rapist which is what he is supposed to be.
The police investigation side of the story plays out like a bad episode of Law & Order. The two detectives inevitably end up in a romantic relationship, one of them gets kidnapped by Mika and held in a simulation of her own youth as a teenage runaway. The plot is somewhere between a schlocky B or C-tier crime film from the late 1990s and a poorly written video game. Everything is heavy with cliche, and the film never attempts to surprise or present its story in an engaging, different way. The Captive thinks its walking this fine line between serious drama and crime thriller, but it falls firmly into the realm of forgettable pulp it’s embarrassing.
Egoyan attempts to make The Captive appear smart by slicing up the chronology of events. We jump back and forth across the eight years, starting with the current state of Cass, seeing how Cornwall joined Dunlop’s Child Exploitation division, the dissolution of Matt and Lisa’s marriage, the actual moment of kidnapping, and more. For all the slick editing tricks and jumbling of events, which seem determined to keep us from realizing how weak the plot is, they can’t save a movie that is just so mediocre.
Ryan Reynolds is doing his damndest to play his role of grieving father, Matt. And Rosario Dawson as Detective Dunlop attempts to refrain from overacting. The rest of the cast is hamming it up to the point of being comical. Mireille Enos as Lisa exhibits grief that I am never buying and Scott Speedman as Cornwall is trying to balance dedicated cop and rebellious bad boy. The worst offender is Kevin Durand as Mika. Durand has chosen to play Mika as a bargain basement Hannibal Lecter, erudite but stupid as hell. The scene where he visits a fellow member of the child cartel in prison is played so laughably, he feels like a mustache-twirling cartoon.
The Captive is not a highlight in A24 filmography, but it did perpetuate the creator-focused vision of the company. Sadly, things are going to get worse before they get better. My next film is…Kevin Smith’s Tusk. Ugh.