Films about abducted children often yield the strongest results. One of the great fears a parent has is that his or her child might go missing. This is a very real fear and films have been exploring that fear time and time again. In the new Canadian thriller The Captive, the missing child premise is presented in its usual bleak and highly disturbing manner. The film features a strong cast, breathtaking visuals, and tight direction from a filmmaker who has impressed in the past with his subtle style and thought-provoking subjects. Atom Egoyan is that filmmaker and The Captive is another of man’s probing works.
Set in snowy Ontario, Canada, The Captive focuses on Matthew Lane (Ryan Reynolds), an honest hardworking family man. One day, he stops at a roadside eatery with his 9-year-old daughter Cass. He leaves the car for a few minutes only to come back to an empty car. Cass has disappeared and Matthew has no idea where she went. He and his wife Tina (Mireille Enos) then begin a search with the police but eight years pass and Cass is still nowhere to be found. When random clues pop up that suggest Cass might still be alive, police detectives Dunlop (Rosario Dawson) and Cornwall (Scott Speedman) revisit the case and a citywide investigation soon begins and involves a number of individuals, some of whom may be in on the abduction.
Atom Egoyan is indeed, a truly gifted filmmaker. With the depressing yet beautiful 1997 drama The Sweet Hereafter, Egoyan was highly praised. That film has so many layers, with powerful performances, and gorgeous cinematography. It is a true work of art and Egoyan was widely recognized for it. Unfortunately, lightning has not struck twice and while The Captive is pretty to look at and the performances, adequate, it is a relatively disappointing offering from Mr. Egoyan. The film tries very hard at being tense and thrilling but the screenplay (penned by Egoyan and David Fraser) paints its characters as cliches and hollow. Ryan Reynold’s distressed father is a wooden clone of distressed fathers in movies before him and the creepy abductor Mika (Kevin Durand) is over-the-top and at times, rather cartoonish. These are not human characters, they are simply characters, out of place and uninteresting.
The Captive has more cons than pros and the fault lies with Egoyan. He was a bit lazy with the script and the actors do their very best to squeeze out excitement from a pretty unexciting screenplay. The relationship between Reynold’s character and his wife (played excellently by Mireille Enos) provides for some of the more interesting character exchanges in the film. Rosario Dawson is also quite good as the cop investigating the abduction. With these highly capable actors turing in great performances, the same can be said for the film’s cinematographer Paul Sarossy (The Sweet Hereafter, Chloe, Charlie Bartlett), who has captured Ontario in a way that is true to what it is, a snowy backdrop in which anything can happen and in the film, it does. Sarossy’s work is truly the work of an artist and that coupled with the strong cast provides for an okay picture. Egoyan could have seen that a better script was written, one not filled with cliches and bland characters. Otherwise, The Captive would have been a much better film.