Cannes 2014: ‘The Captive’ review


From Canadian director Atom Egoyan (Next of Kin, The Sweet Hereafter), The Captive (2014) is a troubling abduction thriller set in the frozen Ontario wastes. Buried star Ryan Reynolds plays Matthew, a father who, on leaving his nine-year-old daughter Cass (Alexia Fast) in his pickup while he pops into a store to grab some pie for dinner, comes back to find her missing. Every parent’s worst nightmare ensues. The police prove suspicious of him and rather than leaping into action, quiz Matthew about his version of events. Wife Tina (Mireille Enos) immediately blames him for leaving her alone. Meanwhile, Rosario Dawson’s inspector Nicole receives a new recruit in the form of detective Jeffrey (Scott Speedman).

A team meet plays out, with one investigative wonk proving his worth by identifying the picture in a jigsaw while it’s just a pile of pieces. No cliché is left unplundered and the one possible innovation – the extensive use of flashback and different time periods – proves more confusing than anything else. Even though years are passing, The Captive remains resolutely in winter, always around the time of their daughter’s birthday. Written by Egoyan and David Fraser and shot by longtime collaborator Paul Sarrosy, Egoyan;s latest looks the part, yet has none of the edge of the Coen brothers’ wintry Fargo (1996) or even last year’s Prisoners (2013). Mychael Danna’s musical accompaniment proves overbearing, with the ominous cue – a pounding orchestral thrum from Howard Shore’s Se7en score – done to death.

There’s something disturbingly clean about The Captive. The horror of child abduction, paedophile rings, online child abuse and all that goes with it is confined to reaction shots and suggestion. Kevin Durand (as head kidnapper, Mika) is the meticulous, Mozart-loving “nice guy” from a thousand other films. Playing somewhat against type, he does his best, but what he’s given is perilously thin. Enos and Reynolds also put in as much as they can, but their roles are undermined by their occasionally inexplicable actions and the confusing time frames that distance the audience from their plight. This is a film where no one calls the police until it’s too late, at which point the cops decide for personal reasons to take their own sweet time picking up. Not exciting enough to be taken as straightforward thriller and not engaging enough for a dramatic character piece, Egoyan’s The Captive is held back by its own lame script and a distinct lack of necessity.

The 67th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 14-25 May 2014. For more Cannes coverage, simply follow this link.

John Bleasdale