Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Run Time: 1 hours, 37 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Kate Mara, David Oyelowo, Mimi Rogers, Michael K. Williams
Directed by Jerry Jameson (Last Flight Out, Land of the Free, The Bat People)
Captive (opening today) is just a few commercial breaks short of being Made-For-TV movie.
It tells the "true story" of suspected criminal Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo), on trial for rape and kidnapping, who escaped from a courthouse, murdering an officer, a judge and a court reporter on his way out, and severely beating a female officer as well. While on the lam, he kidnaps a young widowed mother, Ashley Smith (Kate Mara), in her apartment. Ashley is a meth addict whose life is in shambles at the time of the abduction.
Both Mara and Oyelowo give it their all, but neither are able to overcome the shallowness of the story as it is presented. Consider that this film - about an escaped murder who kidnaps a meth-head - is still only rated PG-13, and you'll begin to understand the filmmaker's watered-down approach.
But it shouldn't be surprising, considering that the film's director, Jerry Jameson, is a TV movie director by trade. He paints this one up by-the-numbers and never really delves deeper into either main character. Both characters seem to have room to explore, but neither are developed more than what we know about them when we first see them.
Worse yet, the film - not so subtly - hits upon some religious notes and seems to be blatantly peddling a product: A book by Christian author Rick Warren called "The Purpose Driven Life." It is true that the real-life Ashley Smith reportedly read Nichols some passages from the book while in captivity. Occasionally, in-between scenes of Ashley's fear of escaping and Nichols's frantic pacing, the book enters into the story and takes over, if only for brief periods of time. It comes across like the overly-religious friend trying to enter into a conversation about God and the after-life with a known non-believer - with the filmmaker as the zealot and the audience as the unenlightened ones - where bits of Christ-talk are introduced into normal conversation, resulting in all-around awkwardness for all involved. But by the end - during the credits - when we are given a snippet of Ashley Smith and Rick Warren's appearance on "Oprah," followed by a song featuring a gospel chorus, the religious "undertones" turns into a full-on tidal wave of biblical proportions.
Like the phrase "Breaking News," there is an ongoing misuse of the words "based on a true story" too. One tends to see those words and then thinks that everything they see really happened, giving it more weight and meaning...and, well, purpose. But there are some horribly obvious manipulations that occur later in the film, like when the cops get Ashley to try to negotiate with Nichols who is still cooped up in the apartment. There is no way that any cop would put a freshly escaped victim in that position, and there is no factual info (that I've been able to uncover) that this was part of what actually happened. The exchange is meant to create drama, but instead it induces eye-rolls. If the characters had developed anything substantial between them, it may have been worth over-looking.
Captive isn't a "bad" film, just fairly straight-forward and typical of the crime genre, in the vein of films like The Fugitive but not nearly as exciting, entertaining, or memorable. But, as handled by Jerry Jameson, this "should-have-been-made-for-TV" film has no business playing on a big-screen.
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