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The Captive. 2014. Dir. Atom Egoyan. Screenplay by Egoyan & David Fraser.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Scott Speedman, Rosario Dawson, Mireille Enos, Kevin Durand, Alexia Fast, Peyton Kennedy. Ego Film Arts.
112 minutes. Rated PG.
Canadian director Atom Egoyan is no stranger to telling stories in unique ways, often fragmenting plots into non-linear narrative. His style comes through no differently, although never so full of twists and turns, in his latest film The Captive – a dark thriller starring Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds and featuring other homegrown talents such as Scott Speedman and The Strain‘s Kevin Durand. Egoyan’s film treads through uncomfortable and treacherous territory to tell the story of a little girl named Cassandra (Kennedy/Fast) who is kidnapped from a roadside diner right under her father’s nose.
After eight years, traces of the girl surface online in cryptic bits and pieces. By this time, her parents have all but gone crazy and divorced. The father (Reynolds) takes things into his own hands while the police seem focused on treating him as a suspect. However, at the beginning of the film Egoyan clearly gives up the kidnapper’s identity, and for good reason.
Egoyan likes to play with the depiction of past and present in many of his films. In The Captive, he takes the story from one point to another, leaping from the day of the kidnapping to eight years later, all without ever directly communicating a time shift. The film plays with its audience, putting us directly in the shoes of those whose lives have been shaken by the kidnapping of Cassandra; for the people who loved her, each day is the day she was taken, each day it gets tougher to move on because they live in the past.
This is a film concerned with real life exploitation of children as much as it with examining how innovative technology allows predators into people’s homes. Still, there are times the plot requires a little suspension of disbelief.
For instance, in one scene an elaborate “trail” is created to lead the father out onto a deserted road for a surprise meeting. If Egoyan had chosen a different route to reach the same point it may have played out well. Instead it may lead some people to deem it unbelievable.
However, this scene plays out in an almost surreal way. Many of Egoyan’s films take on fairy tale-like qualities, this moment being one of those. He likes to play with things in this way, substituting character types of regular thrillers for those you might often find in folklore. Not everything is done in this manner, but Egoyan absolutely works in this method in almost every one of his films.
I can’t say The Captive is my favourite entry into this great Canadian director’s filmography, preferring his work in Exotica or the devastatingly emotional The Sweet Hereafter. That being said, this is a great watch. Reynolds especially puts in a wonderful performance; the ‘tortured dad in search of his daughter’ is a character often used in film, yet he feels fresh here, balancing calmness and chaos. Enos is also wonderful – she is highly underrated, in my opinion. There’s a way she conveys all the grief and tension inside her without having to always explode or go up a level; her face is extremely expressive in that sense. Furthermore, the mood’s dark tones are set in contrast to the bleak, snowy landscape. Literary and musical allusions crop up everywhere. There are so many things converge here in this film to make it multi-layered and complex, more so than the general thrillers out there dealing with subjects such as this.
Egoyan is more interested by atmosphere and character than his with plot; he is an auteur, there is a style found in his films that is all his own. Here, beautiful Canadian settings combined with a haunting musical score help the story come to life while the characters carry most of this film. Not perfect, but worth the price of admission, and an affirmation Canadian filmmakers can make big, exciting films without crossing the border or catering to the latest box office trends.