Atom Egoyan’s newest film, The Captive, came to theatres Sept. 5 and fell short of being the frightening abduction thriller it was intended to be. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Scott Speedman and Rosario Dawson, the movie had a well-rounded and competent cast, but the story itself lacks any flow or reality to it and seemed to have taken the very serious and sensitive issue of child sexual abuse and turned it into a spectacle it probably shouldn’t have been.
The film has received mixed reviews from five stars to a measly one star, but the general consensus seems to be that the movie was excessively long and suffering from parts that seemed irrelevant to the plot.
The story spans over eight years and follows Niagara Falls resident, Matthew (Reynolds), as he tries to discover what happened to his daughter who was taken from his truck while he ran into a store. Just as eerily, he spends his days scouring the streets of Niagara Falls looking for teenage girls with the hopes that one might be his daughter. This continues until two detectives Nicole (Dawson) and Jeffrey (Speedman) discover photos of Cassandra when investigating the activity of online pedophiles. Following this, Matthew has no doubt that his daughter is still alive and vows to find her.
The film is just shy of two hours but seems to exhaust itself and spread itself out as much as it can, which frankly took away from the plot itself. The plot is scattered, moving back and forth throughout the eight years when Cassandra went missing and though this is conventional for an abduction thriller, it doesn’t work for this film.
The way the film is laid out and the way the conversations take place between the characters leave nothing for the audience themselves to figure out on their own. Everything is made so evidently clear that it’s almost like the audience wasn’t expected to understand anything that was going on. Additionally, it seems problematic that the story is about the severely serious issue of a child being abducted, but pays far more attention to the relationships and actions of the people in her life. Perhaps we’re not used to thinking of such a serious issue in terms of being a “good story”, but either way it’s off-putting, and not in an exciting and creative way.
The most unfortunate thing about this movie and the amount of criticism that’s following it is that it’s a Canadian production. Filmed in Niagara Falls Ontario and with many Canadian actors, the film is being scrutinized as being a stereotypical Canadian flop. While major movies like this do poorly all the time, it’s rarely acknowledged when it was an American film. However, this particular film is not only being criticized for its lack of quality but the criticism is made that much worse because it’s Canadian, an unfortunate and unfair bruise on the Canadian film industry. Let’s hope Egoyan can make us a little prouder and show what Canadian films are capable of next time.