2015, PG-13, 97 min. Directed by Jerry Jameson. Starring Kate Mara, David Oyelowo, Mimi Rogers, Michael Kenneth Williams, Leonor Varela, Jessica Oyelowo, Matt Lowe, Michael Mercaldi, Melissa Eastwood.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 25, 2015
Based on an actual event in March 2005 that made headlines all over the world, Captive is ostensibly a two-person hostage drama sporting a strong, upfront message of evangelical Christian values as espoused in Saddleback Church founder Rick Warren’s fiendishly popular self-help treatise The Purpose Driven Life. While I’m not certain of Warren’s purpose – his bestselling book presumably netted him an ungodly amount of money – Captive’s main purpose appears to cause skeptical film critics to snooze through something akin to The Desperate Hours meets Sunday school. An odd mix, to be sure, but full-tilt performances from Mara, as meth-addicted, widowed mom-cum-kidnappee Ashley Smith, and Oyelowo, playing the stone-cold killer turned cornered kidnapper Brian Nichols, help this spiritual thriller rise (very slightly) above other, more hamfisted, heaven-friendly fare.
After breaking out of prison, Nichols, armed and leaving a trail of fresh corpses behind him, ends up at Smith’s tatty apartment. She’s just returned from a 12-step meeting where a copy of Warren’s book was given to her. Not much of a reader, apparently, she chucks it in the trash only to have it returned to her. Once Nichols kidnaps her in her own home, she attempts to defuse the situation by engaging her tormentor in emotion-laden conversations about their respective families and, eventually, begins reading to Nichols from The Purpose Driven Life. If that’s not enough to make anyone wave the white flag of surrender, I’m not sure what is. It all plays like some strange variation on Stockholm syndrome minus the Swedes, or possibly a religious riposte to Craig Brewer’s Black Snake Moan.
While hostage negotiators do their thing outside, Nichols and Smith carry on inside as best they can in a crazy-tense situation. There’s plenty of moralizing on hand – and plenty of clunky chunks of expansively wooden dialogue as well. Still, Mara and Oyelowo manage to evoke a passable connection between their characters. That’s about the only good thing I can wholeheartedly say about Captive, which in all other respects hews close to a TV-movie template, including plenty of static talking-head shots. Yawn.