BFI London Film Festival 2012: ‘Captive’ review


Directed by Brillante Mendoza and starring the incredibly watchable Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher [2001], White Material [2009]), 2012’s Captive (also referred to as Captured) is loosely based on the true story of an accidental kidnapping of a group of holiday makers and missionaries in the Philippines in 2001. A group of masked, armed members of the Muslim Abu Sayyaf group burst into an island resort with the intention of kidnapping twelve important employees of the World Bank. However, these highly profitable businessmen had already left the resort and the abducted group are an unsuspecting selection of tourists and Christians.

Mendoza’s Captive is beautifully shot, using a hypnotic mixture of mesmerising pans and intense close ups. At times it works perfectly, especially when he uses the surrounding nature to imprison his cast in a cell of natural sunlight and thick overgrown branches – sadly though his taste for visual panache is at times overused, seeming far too cinematic and epic for the gritty and gruelling subject matter of the film.

Huppert is, as expected, tremendous, perfectly encompassing her characters inner anguish and deals with her emotional weighted character arc with ease. It’s a shame the same could not be said for the rest of the cast who seem to express a resigned sense of hope but little else – never able to match Huppert’s powerful performances.

Mendoza has successfully created a film which pulls you into its victims world, taking the audience hostage and submerging them into this horrific world of terrorism. Unfortunately though, this sense of imprisonment is hindered by the repetitive scenes of conflict which fail to match the grandeur or intensity of Captive’s more intriguing scenes between the group. The film’s final act – where relations amongst the hostages and terrorist start to blur through a combination of Stockholm Syndrome, religious disagreements and despair – comes a little too late, without enough time having been spent on building up this large and extremely thinly-drawn cast.

Captive is undeniably an overly-long film that, like its protagonists, you’ll wish to escape. No degree of aesthetically-pleasing camerawork or impressive acting from Huppert can save Captive from its disappointingly languid pace and blotted runtime, yet this gruelling experience is still watchable – if only for its claustrophobic atmosphere of helplessness.

The 56th BFI London Film Festival runs from 10-21 October. For more of our LFF coverage, simply follow this link.

Patrick Gamble