Want personalized picks that fit your family?
Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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 ...
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?
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?
- In theaters: March 15, 2019
- Cast: John Goodman, Vera Farmiga, Ashton Sanders
- Director: Rupert Wyatt
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Space and Aliens
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief language and drug material
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love sci-fi
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.