Captive State

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Captive State Movie Poster Image
Dark, disconnected, but smart alien invasion movie.
  • PG-13
  • 2019
  • 109 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Somewhat buried amid movie's many sci-fi action scenes and chases is idea that it's important to stand up against huge odds, even risking your life for what you believe is right.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters risk their lives to do the right thing. Gabriel is shown to be brave and strong, despite (or because) his family has been taken from him. But his actions are sometimes seen as rebellious/outside the rule of order, and his storyline isn't the main one.


Aliens vaporize humans. Guns and shooting. Dead bodies. Blood splatters. Surgeries performed to remove weird alien implants, with blood shown. Explosions. Gross alien FX. Martial law. Abduction. Cyanide pills. General crisis, stress. Yelling.


A major character is a kind of prostitute. Sex act briefly seen on a screen. Kissing. Woman in bra. Sex-related talk.


Uses of "s--t," "bulls--t," "dummy."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking. Cocaine snorting.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Captive State is an alien invasion movie set in a future Chicago. Some humans try to cooperate with the conquering aliens while others try to rebel; there's a very complex plan at the heart of the story. Violence is the biggest issue: Humans are killed, both vaporized by aliens and shot by guns. There are explosions, blood splatters, gory surgery, gross alien effects, cyanide pills, and lots of chaos and stress. Language includes "s--t." One character is said to be a kind of prostitute (she's shown wearing a bra), a sex act is briefly visible on a screen, and characters kiss and talk about sex. Characters smoke cigarettes and, in one sequence, snort cocaine. The movie is more about its own big ideas than about characters or emotions, but it's smart enough that it should please most teen and adult sci-fi fans. John Goodman and Vera Farmiga co-star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byDRob March 18, 2019
Adult Written byNKzondo July 17, 2020

Waste of time

I spent 1hr50 watching this crap movie. Worse movie of all times. I would never watch it again even if I was paid to watch it.
Teen, 17 years old Written bylaeylani June 18, 2019


This movie was pretty good. Kind of confusing, but good. It would be hard for younger people- like 13- to truly understand the entirety of the movie. To connect... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old March 16, 2019

What's the story?

In CAPTIVE STATE, a race of aliens descends upon our planet. Years later, the underground-dwelling, energy-sucking creatures have struck a truce with Earth's governments. But young Gabriel (Ashton Sanders), who saw his parents killed by aliens, remains dedicated to keeping a rebellion alive in the gritty Chicago streets. He follows in the footsteps of his older brother, who became a folk hero while trying to fight back. Meanwhile, police officer Mulligan (John Goodman), whose former partner was Gabriel's dad, is determined to keep Gabriel out of trouble, while also attempting to keep relations stable between the aliens and humans. While the rebel group known as Phoenix plots to set off an invisible explosive during a meeting between a human politician and an alien, other, more intricate plans are also set in motion.

Is it any good?

Although it's complex and satisfying -- and not overly reliant on visual effects -- this alien invasion movie still feels somewhat dispassionate. Perhaps that's because it concentrates less on characters and more on its own big ideas. Co-written and directed by Rupert Wyatt, whose Rise of the Planet of the Apes was likewise clever, but also exciting and moving, Captive State opens awkwardly, with characters trading explanatory dialogue designed to fill viewers in on the miserable state of everything. Characters are mainly defined by what they believe in, not who they actually are, and, despite the great cast, it's difficult to get past any of it.

Happily, though, things do pick up. Eventually characters stop talking so much, and the film begins to focus on the process of things, the weblike underground network that develops and transports all the necessary moving parts, all with the utmost discretion. The characters still feel a little disconnected, but at least their actions are interesting. And, to be sure, the final piece of the puzzle is definitely worth the trouble. Wyatt doesn't bother with too many alien effects (although the creatures do feel a tad familiar), instead focusing on a grayish, blasted-out dystopian look. Vera Farmiga is especially good in her role as a mysterious courtesan, tucked away in a private little haven filled with books and knowledge.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Captive State's violence. How did it make you feel? Is it thrilling, or shocking? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How is sex depicted? Who is Vera Farmiga's character, exactly, and how did she come to be in the position she's in? Could she have chosen another position?

  • In the movie, cocaine is used "for courage." Does the movie make it seem OK to use cocaine? Is it glamorized? What are the consequences?

  • What's the appeal of post-apocalyptic movies? What does the movie have to teach us about who we are in the world today?

  • Would you choose a life of comfort in cooperating with the aliens, or a life of stress and anxiety, fighting for freedom? How does this kind of choice apply to everyday life?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi

Themes & Topics

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