The Captive review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
There’s an almost cathartic quaintness to how The Captive plays its self-straight with a missing-girl thriller. It never goes too nutty with the expected thriller elements, yet never aims to present something so simple that it’s devoid of sensationalism. So while I can’t exactly say it shook me to my core in the same way as Prisoners or You Were Never Really Here, the movie still turns in a decent case for a thriller that bravely pushes through the motions.
Ryan Reynolds plays Matthew Lane, a father of a 9-year-old girl that loves skating in their snowy northern town of Ontario. He leaves her in the car when he goes into a store to order a pie and comes out to find her gone. He contacts the police and the detectives of the fresh-on-the-force Jeffrey (Scott Speedman) and the veteran child-porn buster Nicole (Rosario Dawson) take on his case. It’s not an easy one and it proves to be a long and difficult one that leads both Matthew and the detectives down a dark road of secrets, scandals, and disturbing traps.
A story such as this is a common one that could spin off the rails with absurdity and straight into parody. It doesn’t exactly avoid all the pitfalls but does make an earnest attempt to steer away from disaster. Reynolds performance is a strong one, playing a bearded contractor that struggles to come to terms with his mistakes and the conspiracy he’s struggling to untangle. He thankfully keeps most of that playful comedic spirit he harbors so well and reserves it for the smaller moments of lightly joking with adults and being a charmer of a father. Rosario Dawson holds just the right amount of stoic as a hardened agent that has not only took part in a number of child pornography busting but has a tragic past that has made her accustom to dealing with scummy characters.
So many of the key players in this investigation work so well that when we finally get to the climax saving the girl and busting the bad guy, it’s sad to see the film slip more into the mindset of a dopey spy thriller than an emotionally traumatic experience. The child kidnapper is Mika, played by Kevin Durand as a cartoonish villain with his plush estate, fancy sweaters, and a thin mustache that I’m sure he twirls as he looks over his kidnapped children. With a seemingly unlimited amount of cash, he decks his home with cameras at every angle and even has a secret van with cameras to keep unwanted visitors. And in the most ridiculous of additions, he has a tranquilizer gun he uses to gently push aside a few players when the plot doesn’t require him to kidnap them.
The Captive certainly does have some style with snowy winter setting and subtly chilling atmosphere of losing control of one’s freedom and life. It’s just too bad that it never feels fully explored when locked into the box of the expected theatrics of the thriller genre, where the additions of drugged agents and gun-toting car chases seem to be par for the course. The film features these aspects but I couldn’t quite shake the notion that if the film had a little more faith to drop the sensationalism of nearly every other police procedural story that has polluted television, there may have been a better thriller here. The Captive is constrained within its own genre, struggling to get out and be more involving past its sleepier and sillier shackles.