A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this bloody, torturous (literally and figuratively) horror movie is in no way for kids. Brutal, grisly images -- focused on the kidnapping, captivity, and torture of a model by a killer who resents her "beauty" (and has flashbacks to a sexually abusive mother) -- are nonstop. Expect to see shooting, stabbing, smothering by sand, bondage, hitting, and teeth pulling by pliers. The model is forced to wear skimpy clothing, swallow blended human entrails, and take needles of knockout drugs in her arm. There's one brief but suggestive sex scene; and, in addition to doping his victim, the killer drinks several times while observing her. Language includes repeated uses of "f--k" and more.
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What's the story?
Reportedly re-edited to enhance gore and all but disowned by director Roland Joffé (whose previous work includes The Killing Fields), Captivity is premised on one tedious idea: torturing a beautiful girl. From her first minute on screen, model Jennifer Tree (Elisha Cuthbert) is objectified. Kidnapped by an apparently devious stalker who drugs her drink and then drags her out a back door , Jennifer wakes up in a basement. She will spend several days being emotionally and physically abused by the stalker (Pruitt Taylor Vince), who lurks in shadows, watches her on surveillance monitors, and wears an ominous dark hoodie. Jennifer's torments are various; most have to do with nasty restraints and ocular tricks (a window looking out on palm trees and water turns out to be a cruel projection). Distraught, Jennifer cries out repeatedly, "I'm sorry" (thus mimicking the tape the killer shows her of a previous victim crying out as she's doused with acid).
Is it any good?
The plot takes the shape of one abuse after another, punctuated by inane dialogue. (The killer says by intercom: "Why do bad things happen to good people, you ask? That's the mystery"; Jennifer in a TV interview the killer plays on a taunting loop: "It's not just me. It's a scientific fact: Beauty rules. It always has, and it always will.") When Jennifer discovers a second captive, Gary (Daniel Gillies), she's heartened -- but viewers are troubled: His sudden appearance is ridiculously convenient, and his pretty-boy slickness is surely more corny than reassuring. The film tries to have it multiple ways, both condemning the killer's self-importance and disapproving of Jennifer's superficial performance -- as well as the system of high-fashion imagery that encourages him to desire and hate her at the same time. The fact that Captivity also flashes back to an atrocious scene showing the killer with his sexually abusive, drugged-out mother doesn't quite excuse him, but does -- predictably and quite painfully -- find a way to blame a woman for what's wrong with him.
Even before its release, CAPTIVITY was notorious. Shot in Moscow in 2005, it was touted as the first United States-Russian co-production. And its early ads -- which featured images of a young woman's abuse -- drew public outcry and were withdrawn by distributor After Dark Films. Sadly, the movie that has finally reached theaters hardly seems worth the uproar.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the trend of "torture porn." Why is this sub-category of horror movie (which also includes Saw, Hostel, and others like them) so popular right now? Is there a particular statement you think filmmakers are trying to make? If not, what's their motivation? Is "violence for violence's sake" enough of a reason to make -- or see -- a movie? Families can also discuss the movie's messages about beauty. Why is Jennifer victimized? Why does her tormentor resent her appearance? How does Jennifer feel about the way she looks?
- In theaters: July 13, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: October 30, 2007
- Cast: Daniel Gillies, Elisha Cuthbert, Pruitt Taylor Vince
- Director: Roland Joffe
- Studio: After Dark Films
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence, torture, pervasive terror, grisly images, language and some sexual material.
- Last updated: September 21, 2019