Saturday 7 March 2020

Movie Review: The Captive (2014)

A child abduction drama, The Captive peels away layers of secrets in frigid terrain to reveal a complex web of interconnected raw emotions.

The film is presented non-sequentially and in multiple timeframes, with all events occurring around Niagara Falls, Ontario (but also filmed in Sudbury). Chronologically, married couple Matt and Tina Lane (Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos) are rocked by the abduction of their young daughter Cassandra, an aspiring figure skater. Tina blames Matt, because Cass was kidnapped from his truck when he popped into a diner.

Police detectives and child abduction experts Nicole (Rosario Dawson) and Jeffrey (Scott Speedman) investigate, with Jeffrey suspecting Matt of selling his daughter for financial reasons. Years pass and the case goes cold. Tina and Matt separate but Tina maintains annual contact with Nicole. Meanwhile Cass grows up in captivity, held in a secret room by wealthy businessman and child pornographer Mika (Kevin Durand). Matt never gives up hope of finding his daughter, while the grown-up Cass (Alexia Fast) starts to exert her power over Mika to try and end her nightmare.

An intricate multi-faceted mystery, The Captive is spellbinding but also congested. Director, co-writer and co-producer Atom Egoyan weaves a fascinating multi-pronged tale of insidious evil hiding in a perpetually snow-covered small town, with the story ambitiously spanning many years of agony as Cassandra's disappearance casts a long shadow over the community.

The frequent jumps back and forth to multiple points in time are at first disconcerting, and for a movie clocking in at under two hours, there is a lot going on. But Egoyan maintains reasonable control as the narrative spreads its wings. The film is not just about grieving parents; it is also about Cassandra's burgeoning adulthood in a bewildering captivity, and the enticing but infuriating dead-ends well-intentioned detectives can be sucked into.

Still more sub-themes feature Mika deriving pleasure from torturing Tina with artefacts from her missing daughter's life while cameras secretly record her reactions, and Nicole herself becoming a target of the powerful pornographer cartel. The online luring menace, a pornographer's psychological weaknesses and a relationship between cops Nicole and Jeffrey also sneak their way into the film.

As the multiple threads intertwine The Captive inhales the icy coldness of working class desperation. The Niagara Falls are frozen in the background and stubbornly refusing to release any economic advancement. Matt struggles to run a one-man landscaping business while Tina works as a hotel room cleaner, their relationship comprehensively ruptured by her fury at what she perceives to be his carelessness in losing Cass. Ironically, the only moment of glitz is provided by two-faced slimy child porn merchants hosting a banquet.

The Captive appears to run out of either time or money, the climax rushed into an unsatisfying blur with a few threads left hanging. But the ever expanding ripples of trauma caused by one child's disappearance do leave a lasting impression.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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