If you take all the flashbacks in Atom Egoyan’s new movie The Captive and put them in chronological order, you’ll get a confusing tale of child abduction and parental grief without the high notes of Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners or at least the creep factor of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones.
With a cast that includes Ryan Reynolds, Scott Speedman, The Killing’s Mireille Enos, and Rosario Dawson, The Captive moves at a deceptively slow pace for a thriller. The details of the story are shelled out piece by piece, beginning with a glimpse of a tall, lonely man (Kevin Durand) in his high-tech apartment, listening to opera. After a long tracking shot that follows the man down into his basement, a teenage girl (Alexia Fast) appears in a small room behind a padlocked door, cut off from the rest of the world. Then, cut to a different time period, judging by the haircuts, of two women sitting in a coffee shop, one deeply depressed and post-sobbing. If there’s a connection between the scene with the teenage girl and the scene in the coffee shop, it’s only established by the moodiness and generally sombre tone of the acting; the dialogue offers very little clues of what’s to come.
In a plot where a young girl has vanished without a trace for eight years, I guess there’s some suspense in not knowing exactly where the time’s gone or who the characters are at heart, but as the movie wears on, it becomes tedious. Eight years is a large enough span of time for the girl’s father (Reynolds) to change or age in some way, but Egoyan doesn’t seem to be invested in that kind of realism. Only the missing girl changes dramatically, while her mother (Enos) oddly finds a way to stay at the same job year after year despite the fact that her daughter’s disappeared. The detectives on the case, Dawson and Speedman, while passionate, keep missing important leads along the way, perhaps as a result of their romance that comes out of nowhere. Even Bruce Greenwood, as a mysterious corporate architect, can’t bring the plot holes together because his character, too, is lost in a mixture of clichés and slim coincidences. Reynolds does a very good job, though, of mirroring some of the frustration I had as a viewer with his impulsive, rageaholic outbursts towards the detectives.
I can appreciate that what probably inspired Egoyan to write and direct The Captive was something ripped from the headlines in our culture of bizarre and violent crimes, such as the Elizabeth Smart case. However, Smart went missing for nine months, not eight years, which is too much ground to cover. If anything, Egoyan’s true obsession in The Captive is the psychology of voyeurism through our gadget technology, not what happens between victim and captor. In the snowy, gray landscape of Niagara, these characters stay very remote and two-dimensional, leaving many unanswered questions and a lot of untapped potential.
The Captive opened Friday September 5.