The Captive: Voyeuristic Pursuits (Movie Review)

captiveAtom Egoyan’s film, The Captive, is creepy, not unlike the 2013 Denis Villeneuve thriller Prisoners. The film’s backdrop is snowy Ontario, starring Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos as Matthew and Tina as they barely hold onto reality for eight years after the kidnapping of their daughter, Cassandra. When hints of her existence become apparent to detectives Nicole and Jeffrey (Rosario Dawson and Scott Speedman), Matthew’s relentless hope becomes reality and he would do anything to track her down. Part-thriller, part-horror film, Egoyan toys with us but never quite punches the buttons to make this film absolutely soar.

We know from the opening scene that Kevin Durand’s Mika is evil, that the frustration Matthew feels is a reality only he knows: others hold him responsible for Cassandra’s disappearance but he’s not the one who took her. But that’s mixed with his tangible, patriarchal responsibility for her kidnapping- the guilt he feels for not protecting her. That’s where the film collides with Prisoners, and Law & Order: SVU. But Egoyan angles for something more.

The film skips around too much, from time to time and perspective to perspective. The primary cause of Mika’s sickness is the disturbing fascination with other peoples’ pain, and thus, he’s set up a way to keep Cassandra’s parents under watch so that money can be made off of watching their suffering. Cassandra herself has some kind of Stockholm syndrome, where she’s kept controlled by threats to others, and her own voice becomes a kind of siren song to other children, making her maleficent by corollary. Egoyan seems (like Open Windows) to be focused in on the way we’ve decided as a society that voyeurism is not only okay, but profitable. Whether it’s pornography, or violence, or sex, how have we gotten to the point where Sex Box is okay? I’m aware that the film hasn’t received much praise, but it seems more insightful than anyone is giving it credit for.

I didn’t enjoy it , and frankly, I wouldn’t watch it again, but it was smarter than I expected, and it definitely had more going on. When the final snowflakes fell, I was more wrapped up in it than I had previously thought, thanks to the subtle (?) clues that the film dropped for us along the way. If you did dig the focus in on Reynolds (more screen time than anything since Buried!), you’ll appreciate the extra alternate ending and maybe even the commentary. rating: rainy day it


About Jacob Sahms

I'm searching for hope in the midst of the storms, raising a family, pastoring a church, writing on faith and film, rooting for the Red Sox, and sleeping occasionally. Find me at,, and the brand new
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