Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Captive Movie Poster Image
Hostage thriller about escaped prisoner has violence, drugs.
  • PG-13
  • 2015
  • 97 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Even the most dangerous criminals can have a decent core, if you know how to find it. Nobody is all evil.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ashley is resilient and surprisingly tough, even in the face of grave danger. And while she's justifiably terrified, she also tries to steer a violent criminal toward a decent path by giving him supportive advice and reading him passages from a self-help book. Brian, who's just broken out of jail, is a cold-blooded killer but also has a streak of goodness in him. 


A criminal breaks out of jail, violently beating a guard and then shooting several other people in cold blood and at close range. He also assaults a man during a carjacking (leaving him unconscious on the road) and takes a woman hostage in her home, throwing her against a wall and almost knocking her senseless. At one point she seems to fear he's about to sexually assault her, but he's "just" tying her up.


One character says a self-help book is full of  "church crap."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main character is struggling to kick her meth addiction. Viewers see her about to dump her last stash down the drain, but instead she gives in and uses. Later, a violent criminal takes some of her drugs and he demands that she join him. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Captive is a thriller based on a true story about an escaped criminal (Selma's David Oyelowo) who takes a woman hostage in her home because he needs a place to hide. He's a cold-blooded killer, and some of the scenes are surprisingly violent (close-range shootings, assault, beating). The woman is trying to overcome her addiction to meth, and a few scenes show the two of them using the drug and then moving around her apartment, obviously high. There's no sex and essentially zero language ("crap" is about as strong as it gets), but the violence and drug use make the film more appropriate for mature viewers, despite its themes of finding goodness in anyone, no matter how "bad" they are.

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What's the story?

Convicted felon Brian (David Oyelowo) breaks out of jail, leaving three people dead and triggering a massive manhunt. With nowhere to go, he takes Ashley (Kate Mara) CAPTIVE so he can hide out in her apartment, in this thriller based on true story. She's a single mom struggling to overcome a meth habit, and all she wants is to survive the ordeal so she can see her daughter again. 

Is it any good?

Besides the fact that Mara and Oyelowo are obviously very accomplished actors, Captive isn't all that captivating. The story, though promising, is eclipsed by slow pacing and plot complications that lead nowhere. And while the movie's promotional materials made a big deal about the fact that, in real life, Ashley read out loud to her captor from a self-help book -- crediting its encouraging message for helping him decide to release her -- in the film, that point is significantly underplayed. The reading lasts only a few moments, and its impact on Brian is unclear; it feels like something the director knew had to be included but had trouble finding a smooth way to work in. Frankly, Oyelowo is so convincingly violent that it's tough to see what spurs his change of heart. And it's just as hard to find a reason to be inspired by this film.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Ashley's addiction. What has it cost her? Does her night as Brian's captive give her the strength to finally get clean? Is drug use ever glamorized in Captive?

  • Do you agree with the movie's main theme/message? Is there good in everyone? If so, does that mean everyone can find redemption?

  • What role does violence play in the film? Are the violent moments more or less disturbing than what you'd see in a horror movie? Why? Why do different kinds of media have a different impact on viewers?

  • Why does Brian break out of jail? What is he trying to accomplish? Does he get what he was seeking? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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