Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Captive Review

Recently I've had the pleasure of reviewing two different movies from genres that I normally like that failed to impress me. In both cases, I took the time to explain what makes a movie from that genre good and thus related why these specific movies failed in my opinion. The first of these was War Room. I normally like religious movies. I consider myself a fairly religious guy, thus I enjoy it when a religious movie comes out and gives me a positive, spiritual boost. But that one didn't sit right for me. The second of these was The Perfect Guy. This one was a thriller. I love thrillers. In fact, if I'm forced to choose a favorite genre, that's the genre I usually go for. But this one had a lot of issues. Thus in that review that I have linked right there, I specifically listed some main points of what makes a good thriller and I used that to show what The Perfect Guy was missing. Why do I bring both of those movies up? The answer is because there was this little-known movie called Captive that came out recently that is what I have called a religious thriller. It is part religious movie and part thriller. Personally I think it does a great job of being successful in both of those areas. Thus I am going to use the guidelines I established with War Room and The Perfect Guy to show what Captive did right that these two movies didn't.

Captive is based on the true story of a certain chain of events that happened not too long ago. David Oyelowo plays a man by the name of Brian Nichols who is in jail for something that he, of course, claims he didn't do. At just the right opportunity, he manages to escape and, on his way out, steals a gun and shoots several people, one of which being the judge that was in charge of his case. Now he is a murderer on the run and in an effort to stay hidden, he invades the home of one Ashley Smith, played by Kate Mara, and takes her captive in her own how. Ashley has some baggage of her own as she is a single mother who her daughter taken away from her mainly due to her strong addiction to meth. The court has ruled that she's just not fit to raise that child. So she is trying to overcome her drug addiction so that she can work on being a fit mother that is capable of raising her daughter. This situation with her being taken captive in her own home definitely throws a big wrench into things. Religious movie, you ask? Yes, it is. But not quite in the way you might think. This movie is probably 90 percent thriller and 10 percent religious movie, which is part of the reason why it works so well. I'll get to that religious aspect in a bit, but being that this is mainly a thriller, let's talk about that aspect of the movie first.

In my review of The Perfect Guy, I listed three main points that a good thriller should have. The first of these is a compelling villain. Sure, you can have a random bad guy doing random bad things and it could still potentially be interesting, but if your villain has a lot of depth to him and the audience can even relate to him to at least a certain degree, your thriller is going to be a lot more interesting and compelling. Captive nails this. First off, David Oyelowo is an amazing actor that is perfect at playing both the ultimate hero as well as the horrible villain. This time he is in the villain role, but he is such a deep, interesting villain. He claims he's innocent in what he was originally convicted for. You kinda feel bad for him there, but not really because we watch him shoot and kill several people upon his escape. But then we learn he has a son that he's never met before. Despite the awful things he's done, his biggest desire is to at least meet his son and be a good father. This is where the movie gets you emotionally because he is very troubled over the fact that now this desire is almost completely unrealistic. You feel for him. You want him to meet his son and be a father. Suddenly our villain almost becomes our hero. But then you remember that he killed several people at the beginning of the movie and is holding this mother hostage and you remind yourself that he is the bad guy. Then you praise the movie for having such an excellent villain.

The second and third things that I mentioned in my review for The Perfect Guy is that a good thriller should have a satisfying conclusion as well as an element of realism. These points are where the movie kinda melds into the religious aspect that I'll talk about in a bit. But let me first talk about the thriller elements of this that the movie succeeds in. It goes without saying that a thriller needs to provide thrills. This wasn't one of my main points simply because I feel this is super obvious. If your movie is boring and non-suspenseful, you've failed. However, you've also failed if you don't have a satisfying ending. In fact, having the ending right is arguably more important for this genre then getting the beginning and middle right. The beginning of a thriller sets up the scenario. The middle will build up the suspense. If the ending is wrong, the whole thing is ruined. This isn't like an action movie where you can have fun during the movie and still come across with a positive outlook on the movie even if the ending was dumb. A dumb twist for a thriller or a bad ending will ruin the whole movie. I don't want to talk much about this movie's ending simply because saying that this is partially a religious movie kinda says too much already. But let me assure you that the ending of this movie works and is not cheesy like you might think if I were to tell you that this is a religious movie.

That leads to my next point. Realism. This is the big point that crosses over for both religious movies and thrillers. The best thrillers are ones where you feel like the scenarios could actually happen. If you walk out of the theater scared because you have that sensation that what happened in the movie could actually happen to you in real life, the movie has done it's job. Captive is based on a true story of something that actually happened to a woman not too long ago. And it's not one of those true stories where it's a once in a life time event that will never happen ever again. It's a home invasion. The woman was taken hostage. These things sadly do happen to a lot of people every year. People go missing. People are kidnapped. People get killed. We live in a horrible world. Thus when you watch a home invasion movie where a girl is taken hostage, that plays with your emotions in a terrifying way and thus the suspense builds because you are really interested in figuring out how this girl makes it out of this situation. The other element of realism is what the characters actually do. The Perfect Guy was a realistic situation. It had to deal with stalkers, which also happens. But how things were resolved felt so fake that I just rolled my eyes. Once again, I'm not going to tell you how this girl in Captive gets out of this situation, but it felt real. Because it was real. And it's the type of real that could realistically happen to an average person.

So now let's talk about religion. I don't to go into specifics with this aspect of the movie because I don't want to tell you how this movie is religious. That's the surprise. But speaking in general terms, what has really frustrated me with some religious movies of late is how black and white they paint things. The second you turn yourself over to God, everything in your life will immediately get better. Your football team will win games. Your car business will prosper. Your husband will stop cheating on you. Your atheist professor will realize he was wrong. No. Not that easy. In fact, life is a lot more complex than that and if you preach that everything will get better the second you follow God, someone might actually decide to test you on that and when life doesn't get better for that person, he or she might decide that God doesn't exist because life didn't get better. This was my biggest problem with War Room and after I reviewed that movie I got a whole ton of backlash as people tried to tell me that miracles do happen and that I was being faith-less because I was discounting them. No, that's not what I'm talking about here. Yes, miracles do happen. Yes, it is possible that if your husband is cheating on you, that you could pray to God and God could strike your husband with an illness that causes him to realize he's doing something bad. But if you preach the miracle as if it's the norm, your preaching the wrong message.

The point of all this is that if you are going to be a faith-based movie, what you need to do is inspire people. Don't paint a black and white picture. Don't be unrealistic. Don't preach. That's not inspiring. That's just frustrating, especially to people who actually aren't religious. Once again, I'm not going to go into specifics with this movie, but what they do with this is more subtle. Like I said, this movie is probably 90 percent thriller and 10 percent religious and that balance is what makes this work. There's no preaching in this, but there's a message of peace and hope that's perfectly sprinkled throughout that I think can apply to a broad range of people. If you are confused and you don't think I did a good job of explaining this, then I'm sorry. I wish I could go into specifics with this movie because that would really help me get the point across, but I'm not going to spoil this. You'll just have to trust me that I think they really did this right. What really helped were the performances in the movie. David Oyelowo is a genius. You can pretty much bet that whatever movie he's in, regardless of the role, he's going to excel. That holds true here. He is fantastic. But the other person who is also fantastic is Kate Mara. I kinda feel bad for her because this was supposed to be the year that she broke out as an actress, but the epic failure of Fantastic Four kinda prevented that. I hope that she's still able to get recognition despite that because she deserves it.

Overall, Captive is a movie that was a perfect blend of thriller and faith. We have quite the intense story on our hands with this murderer who is now holding this mother captive and we have the perfect blend of faith to help us feel inspired when we walk out of the theater. It doesn't beat us over the head. It doesn't preach. It's a story that I feel a lot of people can relate to and be inspired by. I'm saddened by the fact that this movie was completely overlooked in the box office. War Room earned a whole ton of movie at the box office and still is raking in the dough more than a month after it's release. The Perfect Guy ended up topping the box office when it opened, defeating M. Night Shyamalan's comeback movie The Visit. In my opinion neither of those movies did a good job at what they set out to do. War Room was not a good faith-based movie. The Perfect Guy was not a good thriller. Yet they earned all the money and a movie like Captive that did a good job at being a successful thriller and a good faith-based movie came up completely empty. Oh the injustices of Hollywood. I can't change this movie's woes. But if I can convince one person that this is a movie worth seeing, then I'd consider this review a success. My grade for Captive is a good 8/10.

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