Atom Egoyan – the director of such great films as Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter – misses the mark with The Captive, a film that takes pedophilia and spins it into something even worse.
The Captive opens with Matthew Lane (Ryan Reynolds) watching his daughter, nine-year old Cass (Peyton Kennedy), practicing a routine for pairs figure skating. After the practice, while driving her home, he stops at a truck stop café to pick up a pie and when he returns to his truck, she’s gone.
Her disappearance breaks up Matthew’s marriage to Tina (Mireille Enos) and worse, one of the detectives, Jeff Cornwall (Scott Speedman), investigating Cass’ disappearance thinks he did it – and is less than subtle in his angry questioning. The other detective, Nicole Dunlop (Rosario Dawson) is more open-minded – she’s also the face of the area’s anti-pedophile investigations.
Then, eight years later, items that resemble things from Cass’ past start turning up in the hotel rooms where Tina works as a cleaner – an ice skating trophy, a tooth under a pillow – and we learn that the kidnapper is watching her torment (it seems he and his child porn ring also get off on the pain they cause their victims’ parents).He’s also kept Cass (now played by Alexia Fast) in a very pretty, but very secure hidden room in his home – and has her luring other young girls into situations where they can be taken.
In the meantime, Matthew has kept trying to find Cass and Cornwall has continued to treat him as the case’s number one suspect. And let’s not talk about the way that Cornwall and Dunlop discover that Cass is still alive…
Even when Dunlop disappears after a function honoring her for her work, Cornwall is convinced Matthew is behind his daughter’s disappearance.
Oddly, we learn early one – within moments of discovering Cass still alive – that the kidnapper is the outwardly gentle, refined Mika (Kevin Durand). Not that it makes that much difference, but Durand underplays Mika fairly effectively.
The farther The Captive goes, the more unbelievable it gets. The plot twists and turns in directions that range from predictable to utterly unbelievable. The cast is called on to make us believe these twists (as just one example, Mika arranges a meeting between teen Cass and her father before spiriting her away again) and they certainly do their damnedest before falling short. I mean, really! Christmas trees?
Egoyan has constructed The Captive in much the same way as he did Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter and practically every other film he’s made – cutting between two timelines and several points of view. Even given the subject matter and the cold, brutally beautiful way the film is shot, I never really connected with anything that was happening onscreen.
There are a few bright spots – Durand turns down the volume extremely well as Mika; Speedman does a pretty mean Jake Gyllenhaal; Reynolds performs at a level way beyond what was on the page; the cinematography is frequently breathtaking – but overall, The Captive’s technical achievements are buried under the ill-conceived plot.
Unfortunately, you don’t get points for trying.
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