James Clay // Film Critic
Films or television shows that take place in one primary location can have the effect of either being tense, gimmicky, or a way to cut budget (though, that is typically executed in TV bottle episodes). It’s a narrative device that’s not wholly used in the (semi) faith-based thriller CAPTIVE. But in this instance it’s a plot point that is not only integral to the telling of the story, it uses it’s trappings to emotionally exhaust the actors as well as the audience in a neo-noir sort of manner that really isn’t used much in contemporary cinema on the Hollywood level.
CAPTIVE is the true story of Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo), a deeply troubled man who is about to be sentenced to a lengthy stint up river by a Georgia judge until he murders three and is now at large after escaping from a county courthouse. His story intersects with Ashley Smith (Kate Mara), a recovering meth addict who is trying to get back into her daughter’s life.
Nichols’ story unfolds through news coverage and very few lines of dialogue. In fact, Oyelowo doesn’t speak single word until 30 minutes into the film, a challenge no less. He’s the kind of actor who can make his cast mates better actors by proxy. He invokes a passion for life into his role as the deranged killer, yet there is a softness in his eyes that elude to something lighter that lies beneath. But what that may be is purposefully never quite uncovered.
Director Jeremy Jameson allows the camera to sit with these two people who are both confronting their own demons and this is a “faith-based” film with references to Christianity and the book of Job; however, it’s never brazen and honestly feels natural to the story. Take for example, in Mara’s most authentic moment she locks herself in a bathroom and cries out to herself, “Oh God, please help me!” It’s a moment of truth that not only inflicts the message of the film but brings a moment of realness to Ashley Smith. Really most people cry out to the heavens in order to make it through a green light.
Although we are clearly on Smith’s journey as she has been featured on Oprah and spoke about how the night changed her life (including with us at Fresh Fiction), this is Nichols’ story. He’s such a formidable figure who is filled with nothing but passion and, I dare say, love, albeit used in a completely unproductive manner.
There is a limit to how far CAPTIVE can go with the deep-rooted tension that goes a long with the story and the inevitability does hold the narrative back to a certain extent. Knowing that this is a story about over coming odds and having faith in God promises a happy ending, but there are lessons to be learned here. The penmanship from screenwriter Brian Bird developed from Smith’s book UNLIKELY ANGEL isn’t going to force you to subscribe to the theology of the film, but it opens the doors for a new type of storytelling.
Other notable actors in the film include the always welcome and THE WIRE fan favorite Michael K. Williams, and a near unrecognizable Mimi Rogers. CAPTIVE won’t dazzle you in the way the masters of mystery will, but the uncannily consistent work from Oyelowo and its positive outlook will indeed keep you captivated.
Check out our interview with David Oyelowo on his passions and diving into a murderous mind
CAPTIVE opens in participating theaters tonight starting at 7 p.m., and opens nationwide tomorrow.