A busy day ends with a stop to get pie on the way home. It’s just a quick stop, he can even see his truck through the window. He talks to the assistant, gets his pie (cherry) and then gets back in the truck. This is the beginning of the nightmare for Matthew, the beginning of unimaginable pain. The Captive is reviewed after the jump.
Matthew (Ryan Reynolds) is driving his young daughter Cassandra (Peyton Kennedy) home after ice skating practice. He stops off to get some pie to have for dinner, leaving a tired Cass relaxing in the back seat. When he returns to the car (a mere couple of minutes later), Cass is nowhere to be seen. He screams, he searches, but she is gone. At the police station he meets his distraught wife Tina (Mireille Enos) and the pair talk to Detective Nicole Dunlop (Rosario Dawson) and her partner Jeffrey Cornwall (Scott Speedman) of the Child Exploitation Unit. A search is launched and while Nicole is sympathetic, Jeffrey can’t hide his suspicions of Matthew.
Almost a decade on and Cass is still missing. The strain of her disappearance was too much on Matthew and Tina’s marriage and the two have separated. Nicole and Jeffrey are still working for the Child Exploitation Unit and in their investigations they come across an image which could potentially be a much older Cass. This discovery coincides with some unusual events Tina has been experiencing. In her work cleaning a Niagara Falls hotel, she has discovered items that look like things that once belonged to her daughter. Is this a freak coincidence or is there someone who knows what happened to Cass, and if she’s still alive today?
Set in Niagara Falls and Northern Ontario, The Captive speaks to our greatest fears – losing a child. The guilt Matthew felt would have been all-consuming, if it weren’t for the equally strong horror of wondering what had happened to his daughter. The starkness and brutality of the setting is a perfect reflection of the loneliness and fear that Matthew feels – it’s cold, without colour or life and extremely unforgiving. The use of Niagara Falls was very unique and the emptiness of the tourist town during winter was unnerving. The cinematography is a highlight of the film, especially the embracing of the emptiness and whiteness of location. The setting coupled with a tense score by Oscar-winning composer Mychael Danna creates a haunting, unsettling atmosphere throughout.
Ryan Reynolds gives a fantastic performance here, infusing Matthew with fragility and strength. He is a man worn down by his grief and his guilt – the drive to see his daughter one day fuels his existence. His character’s pain is what drives this film and makes it worth seeing. Rosario Dawson is good as Nicole, although her story arc is absurd. The film didn’t need to take her character down the road it did – it took time away from the main arc and led to some of the film’s more sillier developments. Nicole’s partner fares little better, with Scott Speedman’s character suffering from a real lack of depth and believability. He is a walking depository of angry cop statements and nothing more.
The Captive was poorly received at Cannes and I can understand why. There are real issues with the screenplay – ill-conceived characters, side-stories with no purpose, unexplained plot developments and a shifting time perspective that mostly confuses rather than being intriguing. Atom Egoyan has over-complicated his film and for no purpose. Matthew’s arc coupled with the investigations into child exploitation in the region are all this film needed. It’s a real shame Egoyan and co-writer David Fraser lacked restraint, as there’s a great film in this messy venture.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Atom Egoyan
Writer(s): Atom Egoyan & David Fraser
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Scott Speedman, Rosario Dawson, Alexia Fast
Runtime: 112 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: December 4 2014