Review : Captive is a Harrowing Hostage Drama
Originally released in 2012, the film Captive was directed by Brillante Mendoza and, with the exception of French actress Isabelle Huppert, features a cast of unknown actors. The drama is based on the experiences of a group of tourists and Filipino locals who were kidnapped from the Dos Palmas Resort in the southern Philippines in 2001. Captive follows the hostages as they’re forced to arduously journey through the jungle while awaiting either rescue or release once their individual ransoms are paid by their families back home.
Unfortunately the subject of Islamic militants taking Westerners hostage for profit is an all too timely concern as this practice has become more and more commonplace in recent years. Captive is based on the real life Abu Sayyaf kidnappings which took place in the province of Palawan and occurred only a short time before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The film actually features a scene in which the kidnappers are depicted listening to a radio news broadcast and learning about the American attacks.
Captive follows the experiences of the hostages from their initial capture to a seemingly endless ocean voyage aboard a small boat to their continuous struggles to survive in the wilds of the tropical jungle. During their time in the wilderness the hostages must confront dangers such as lack of food and water, gun fights between their militant captors and the Filipino army, as well as encounters with creatures such as leeches, ants, scorpions, snakes, and bees.
Isabelle Huppert delivers a strong performance as lead character, Therese Bourgoine, a French social worker. As viewers we are able to bear witness to her evolution from hapless victim to dedicated survivor. Cut off from the outside world and unable to communicate with her family, Bourgoine faces her horrifying ordeal with bravery and resilience. Despite the various traumas she encounters Bourgoine never loses her humanity or compassion. Time after time she manages to find a way to adapt to her precarious living conditions. The strength of this character is evident during scenes in which she cares for an elderly woman, demands a Christian burial for a deceased victim, helps treat the wounds of her captors, and even befriends one of the youngest militants.
In Captive audiences are afforded an up close and personal sense of the harrowing experiences of the hostages. As the days, weeks, and months pass by those who remain must face an uncertain fate and the daunting possibility that they’ll never be rescued or freed.
Captive doesn’t go into a great deal of detail regarding the ideological differences involved in the conflict between the Muslim and Christian characters. Instead the thriller focuses on the personal struggles facing the captives and their kidnappers. Although faith plays a prominent part in the drama it’s primarily a backdrop to the storyline. One of the few political statements made in Captive regarding the Islamic faith comes from the leader of the separatist group. While addressing the hostages he maintains that according to the Quran they can be killed, made into slaves, converted to Islam, or held for ransom.
Captive is a searing drama which deals with some all too familiar subject matter. The film strives to not only chronicle the plight of the hostages but also to provide audiences with a glimpse of the motivations behind the violent actions of the militants.
Captive is available from First Run Features.