×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Captive’

David Oyelowo and Kate Mara carry a true crime story with faith-based elements that works best as a two-hander.

With:
David Oyelowo, Kate Mara, Michael Kenneth Williams, Leonor Varela, Mimi Rogers, Jessica Oyelowo.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3268668/

True crime and Christian filmmaking collide with more subtlety than either genre is typically known for in “Captive.” Sturdy performances from stars David Oyelowo, as a killer on the run, and Kate Mara, as his meth-addict hostage discovering a sense of purpose in her life, help to temper any temptations toward hysteria or preachiness and elevate what otherwise would have been standard movie-of-the-week fare 20 years ago. And yet by choosing not to force-feed any explicitly religious messaging, veteran TV helmer Jerry Jameson’s intimate thriller may sacrifice some commercial appeal with finicky faith-based auds.

The true story of Ashley Smith (Mara), a waitress and single mom on the verge of losing her daughter due to a nasty drug addiction, and her fateful encounter with escaped criminal Brian Nichols (Oyelowo), who held Smith hostage in her own apartment after breaking out of a courthouse jail and killing four people, generated major headlines back in 2005. Smith went on to recount the experience in her memoir, “Unlikely Angel,” crediting Rick Warren’s inspirational bestseller “The Purpose Driven Life” as playing the pivotal role in her ultimate escape and ability to get Nichols to turn himself in to the law.

That detail alone could have easily resulted in a feature-length ad for either Warren’s book or his Christian-based philosophy, but somehow “Captive” dodges the proselytizing point of view of so many faith-based films to tell a more nuanced and universal story of two broken people forming an unlikely connection. Emphasizing qualities like compassion, hope, grace and spiritual introspection rather than catering to persecution paranoia or depicting a hero self-righteously correcting the wrongs of others, Jameson and scribe Brian Bird offer up a more inspired — if not exactly artful — alternative in the burgeoning faith genre.

It certainly helps to have actors of Oyelowo and Mara’s skill to breathe life into characters drawn with at least some degree of complexity. The self-destructive junkie is a well-worn cliche by this point, but Mara translates Smith’s very real struggle to the screen with just the right mix of cynicism, strength and vulnerability. It only takes a handful of establishing scenes to fully convey the vicious cycle of how an addict can genuinely care about the very people she knows she’s hurting and the way that self-awareness leads right back to drug abuse.

Oyelowo is even more intriguing as a felon introduced through acts of brutal violence (he viciously assaults a prison guard to break free before murdering a judge, court reporter, security guard and one of his multiple carjacking targets), who harbors deep emotional and psychological wounds. It’s a credit to the sensitivity and conviction of the actor and the filmmakers that despite Nichols’ actions and his lack of a tidy redemption arc, the portrayal remains entirely human — at times even sympathetic — throughout.

Although “Captive” largely succeeds as a two-hander, it stumbles in the minimal attempts to broaden the scope beyond Smith and Nichols’ time together. The primary subplot involving the team of detectives (Michael Kenneth Williams and Leonor Varela) trying to track Nichols down saddles the usually reliable Williams with terrible dialogue and over-the-top actions (his vending-machine beatdown is a low point). The frequently undervalued Mimi Rogers fares better in a few scenes as Smith’s aunt, charged with caring for her daughter.

In general, the film is stronger when characters aren’t speaking. Oyelowo and Mara make the most of their smaller silent moments, forging a tenuous bond by slowly and believably opening up to each other, and Nichols’ entire introduction is a lengthy and tense action sequence devoid of dialogue (in which a buffed-up Oyelowo races through the streets sporting a suit jacket with no shirt underneath — proving a different kind of commitment to the role).

Luis Sansans’ capable handheld lensing and Melissa Kent’s clean cutting bolster both the surprisingly effective hostage-thriller set pieces and the more claustrophobic back-and-forth inside Smith’s apartment, which itself is well crafted by production designer Sandra Cabriada.

The most moving sequences in “Captive” wouldn’t feel out of place in any secular humanist drama, but the jarring end credits — which include a clip of Smith and Warren’s joint appearance on “Oprah” and an ear-splitting rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Pressing On” by “20 Feet From Stardom’s” Judith Hill — feel designed to send auds lured by the “Purpose Driven” connection out of theaters with a more divine takeaway.

Film Review: 'Captive'

Reviewed at Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, Sept. 9, 2015. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 97 MIN.

Production: A Paramount release of a BN Films, Brightside Entertainment, 1019 Entertainment, Yoruba Saxon, Itaca Films production. Produced by Terry Botwick, Jerry Jameson, Lucas Akoskin, Alex Garcia, Katerina Wolfe, David Oyelowo, Ken Wales. Executive producers, Santiago Garcia Galvan, Jonathan Gray, Brian Bird, Elliot Lester, Ralph Winter. Co­-producer, Matthew Spiegel.

Crew: Directed by Jerry Jameson. Screenplay, Brian Bird, based on the book “Unlikely Angel” by Ashley Smith and Stacy Mattingly. Camera (color, HD), Luis Sansans; editor, Melissa Kent; music, Lorne Balfe; music supervisor, Lynn Fainchtein; production designer, Sandra Cabriada; set decorator, Barb Livingston; costume designer, Cameron Doyle; sound (Dolby Digital), Mason Donnahoe; re-recording mixer, Jaime Baksht; visual effects supervisor, Raul Prado; visual effects, Flipbook Studio; stunt coordinator, Dino Muccio; associate producer, Rene Bastian, Linda Moran, Adam Folk; assistant director, Adrian Grunberg; casting, Mike Fenton, Ann Frederick.

With: David Oyelowo, Kate Mara, Michael Kenneth Williams, Leonor Varela, Mimi Rogers, Jessica Oyelowo.

More Film

  • Game of Thrones Season 8 Production

    'Game of Thrones,' Netflix VFX Among Those to Be Featured in SIGGRAPH Production Talks

    VFX pros behind the final season of “Game of Thrones,” the blockbuster film “Avengers: Endgame,” Pixar’s upcoming “Toy Story 4,” last year’s Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Netflix series, including “Stranger Things,” and more will give SIGGRAPH 2019 attendees a behind-the-scenes look at their work during the conference’s Production Sessions. There will even be a [...]

  • Lionsgate Planning 'Hunger Games' Prequel Movie

    Lionsgate Planning 'Hunger Games' Prequel Movie

    Lionsgate has begun working on a “Hunger Games” prequel movie, based on a forthcoming novel from writer Suzanne Collins. “As the proud home of the ‘Hunger Games’ movies, we can hardly wait for Suzanne’s next book to be published. We’ve been communicating with her during the writing process and we look forward to continuing to [...]

  • Siberia Keanu Reeves

    Saban Films Turns 5: How the Indie Studio Grew While Rivals Faltered

    Saban Films doesn’t make the most noise. It doesn’t have the splashiest premieres or parties. But the indie film label just quietly did what many of its early rival failed to pull off. It celebrated its fifth anniversary at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. “We stuck to our plan,” Saban Films founder Bill Bromiley told [...]

  • Emanuel

    Film Review: 'Emanuel'

    Mass shootings continue to be a shameful stain on contemporary American history. They strike at such a frequent rate that the way they occupy news cycles before losing the public’s short-spanned attention has become appallingly routine. With his somber documentary “Emanuel,” released by Fathom Events in theaters for two nights only (June 17 and 19), [...]

  • Men in Black International

    Box Office: 'Men in Black: International,' 'Shaft' Add to Summer Sequel Slump

    As “Men in Black: International” and “Shaft” join the growing list of under-performing sequels this summer — an ignominious group that includes “Dark Phoenix” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” — worries of franchise fatigue are beginning to simmer in Hollywood. “Franchises that don’t up the ante or bring anything new into the fold are [...]

  • Song Ge

    Beijing Culture's Song Ge Urges Mainstream Directors to Toe Government Line

    The publicity-shy chief of Beijing Culture, which has backed such Chinese mega-hits as “Wolf Warrior II” and “The Wandering Earth,” openly urged film directors Monday to stick to material pleasing to the Chinese state, for the sake of their investors. “If you’re shooting an art house or smaller budget films, it’s no problem — say [...]

  • Iran presentation at Shanghai film festival

    Shanghai: China-Iran Heading Towards Co-Production Treaty

    “China has signed co-production agreements with 22 countries. Similar agreements between Iran and China are in the works, and will be signed by the end of this year,” said Miao Xiaotian, GM of the China Film Co-Production Corporation on Monday. Miao was speaking at the Shanghai International Film Festival, which is hosting a six-title Focus Iran section [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content