IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 97 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Ashley Smith is a young single mother and methamphetamine addict whose daughter is in the care of her aunt. Once a week she’s allowed to see her daughter but takes loads of meth just before every time to get her through it. Brian Nichols is a violent man on trial for raping an ex-girlfriend. He escapes from the court house and kills four people. Despite being the object of a state-wide manhunt, he makes his way to the house of Ashley and holds her hostage….
Not reading much about this piece of crap before I watched it, except for a small amount of information about the true life case on which it’s based, I expected a tense two-hander, a powerful, psychological drama between a kidnapper and his kidnappee. In fact, I got a pathetic, atrociously written Christian faith movie pretending to be a thriller, not unlike last year’s dire Nicolas Cage-starrer Left Behind, which was also largely disguised as something else to lure suckers into watching it. More “fire and brimstone”-type Christian featuresfrequently come out in the US and are very lucrative. Captive starts off not too badly, despite the violence being rather soft-pedalled as we see Brian escaping the courthouse and shooting four people including the judge, and the endless close-ups which become an annoying feature throughout the whole film along with the constant handheld camera which the operator just can’t keep steady. We then spend some time with Ashley and are certainly made to feel very sorry for her plight. Eventually she receives her visit from Brian, and we soon get one quite good scene when Brian tries to force her to take meth and she, coming to a turning point, refuses, preferring to die from a bullet. However, the bits between Brian and Ashley are mostly too short, the film constantly cutting to the cops trying to catch him, and then, we get possibly the dumbest moment in cinema of the year, a moment which just dumbfounded me. Brian has up to now been threatening to kill Ashley and is as unpleasant a villain as you can get, despite the odd misguided attempt to give him some sympathy, but then Ashley reads out a few lines – yes, just a few lines – from a Christian self-help book called The Purpose-Driven Life, and suddenly he’s putting up pictures for her and is a reformed character!
Now not only is this hugely unconvincing, but probably offensive to the relatives of Brian’s victims, especially since the real Brian never actually found God at all. I can’t imagine they are much impressed by a film telling them that the guy who killed their family members is really an okay guy underneath and is now totally reformed when he actually isn’t, just because the producers wanted to use the premise for religious propaganda. I haven’t read the book Unlikely Angel by the real Ashley on which the film is based, but I doubt it’s as fraudulent and misguided as this film. While not religious, I can personally still appreciate a Christian-based film if it’s honest about being one, is reasonably inspiring, and makes you think, if only for a shot period, that religious faith could be a good thing, but Captive is just stupid and infuriating, and by the time the credits rolled and we see the real Ashley and Rick Warrin the writer of The Purpose-Driven Life appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show, I just wanted to vomit. I can’t understand what possessed David Oyelowo and Kate Mara to be in it. They both actually give highly committed performances which are far too good for the material. Generally this is poorly made, misguided trash which probably doesn’t even belong on shop shelves, let alone deserve to appear in cinemas when you think of all the good movies which don’t get proper releases.