Creepy, disjointed film suffers from poor storytelling.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Captive is centered on a young girl who's kidnapped and held captive for several years by a ring of child abusers. Several scenes feature oblique descriptions of what her captors do, but it's never explained in detail and never shown. Still, the subject matter and the air of creepiness that permeates the entire movie make it very iffy for younger teens. Expect strong but infrequent swearing (mostly variations of "f--k" and "a--hole") and a sequence that shows an adult woman being drugged, kidnapped, and held against her will. There's also a high-speed car chase and shootings.
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What's the Story?
Matthew (Ryan Reynolds) and his young daughter, Cassandra, are on their way home when he pulls over at a diner to pick up Cass' favorite -- pie. She elects to stay in the truck, but when he comes out a few minutes later, she has vanished. Gone. It's a crippling incident, something that will terrify any parent or child, but most of THE CAPTIVE actually focuses on the aftermath. Eight years later, Matthew's marriage to Tina (MIreille Enos) has collapsed, and a special police unit that focuses on pedophiles thinks it finally has a lead on a ring of criminals that may have been holding Cass prisoner all this time.
Is It Any Good?
Director Atom Egoyan is known for creating films that capture a certain melancholy -- the kind that solidifies after years of pain -- against a landscape that reflects it. He does the same with The Captive, which has at its center a singular event that defines and destroys everyone touched by it: the disappearance of a child. But the film doesn't hold. The movie jumps back and forth between at least three time periods, which makes it muddled. It's always winter, and the adults always look the same. Only Cass changes, but she's not in enough of the scenes to make it obvious. Reynolds is compelling as a grieving father, but it's still hard to believe some of the choices he makes. Enos is equally good, but she's only given one note to play in her few scenes: the barely-holding-it-together mother.
Though The Captive excavates their pain, it doesn't seem to know what to do with it, and what's unearthed feels unsurprising, even as the film moves toward a challenging second half. It's all surface, and it moves so slowly that it's hard to tell where it's going. By the time we get there, we've lost interest.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how Cass' parents adjust to their daughter's disappearance in the years after her abduction. How could such a traumatic event disrupt a marriage? What do you think about Matthew's efforts to find his missing daughter, even years after her disappearance? Is he determined or just unwilling to admit defeat?
Do you think the film's premise is plausible? Does it seem like an effective way to warn young people about the dangers of the world? Do you think that's its intention?
Are the characters role models? Are they intended to be?
- In theaters: December 9, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: March 3, 2015
- Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Mireille Enos, Rosario Dawson, Scott Speedman
- Director: Atom Egoyan
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and some violence
- Last updated: February 17, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Gone Baby Gone
Deeply affecting crime thriller for grownups.
The Lovely Bones
Haunting mystery-drama examines a child's murder.
Engrossing revenge thriller is very violent and intense.
For kids who love thrills
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