Cannes Review: The Captive

One second it’s there and the next it’s gone. The dark and deranged abduction thriller ‘The Captive’, from director Atom Egoyan, features a selection of gripping performances from Ryan Reynolds, Alexia Fast and Rosario Dawson.

Creep into the time displaced tale of everyday couple Matthew and Tina, that is until their daughter Cassandra is lured away from the life she once knew and is held captive, whilst being coerced into sharing stories of her childhood. 8 years after their little girl Cass was kidnapped, Matthew (Ryan Reynolds) and Tina Lane (Mireille Enos) are still struggling to pick up the pieces of their destroyed lives. Especially as they are now separated although, the couple have not given up hope in finding their lost daughter despite the investigations of detectives Nicole Dunlop (Rosario Dawson) and Jeffrey Cornwall (Scott Speedman) failing with no clues for almost a decade.

Meanwhile Cassandra is ‘celebrating’ her 13th birthday with her abductor who is considering letting her have a reunion with her father. Kevin Durand is the thoroughly creepy individual Mika who holds Cassandra in a secret room at his house and is keen to keep Cassandra happy in order for her to continue as part of his terrible plans. As part of his scheme, Mika is leaving distraught mother Tina items that belonged to Cassandra in the hotel rooms that Tina cleans overlooking the magnificent Niagara Falls. With two cops still on the case, her father increasingly desperate to find her and Cassandra having some plans of her own, it is only a matter of time before her terrible story finds a resolution.

Considering it from the director of the relentlessly grim ‘The Sweet Hereafter’, it would be very easy to assume that ‘The Captive’ is going to be a depressing and possibly unresolved narrative. The chronology jumps backs and forth in time but there are plenty of clear indicators of whereabouts in the timeline the scenes are taking place. It could be complicated but Captives avoids this easily, with occasionally jarring expositional lines and in fact becomes more linear as it streamlines into a far more straightforward cat and mouse thriller complete with a car chase and shootouts.

For a film set in the freezing cold locale of Niagara Falls, the characters are full of warm traits. Despite the stark and snowy landscapes, even the main antagonist is never stereotyped as a total monster. Kevin Durand plays Mika as a vaguely complex villain, no doubt capable of utterly evil actions but also strangely sensitive in his scenes with Cassandra. Egoyan is very restrained when it comes to the horrors of what Mika and his associates are up to and though there are moments that hint at the actions of these men, the film shows little of the impact it could have on a girl like Cassandra or the scars she and others will bear for the rest of their lives.

While Captives shies away from the true extent of the horror at the core of this story, it nevertheless hones in on the devastation for the parents of the children. Ryan Reynolds and Meirelle Enos give decent, if not incredible performances as the shell-shocked and conflicted parents but Rosario Dawson and Scott Speedman steal much if the film as the doggedly determined detectives intent on finding Cassandra. Captives uses modern technology such as cameras, websites and chat rooms to show how criminal activity has advanced and the threats contemporary children face but also to draw out themes of voyeurism and the desire to watch people in misery.

Though the film occasionally descends into convention and cliché, some fine performances and tense twists in the tale make this a film that audiences will be absolutely willing to have a happy ending for its traumatised characters.


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Pete Turner is a Senior Reporter