Some religious films have been very successful recently, although that statement comes with a catch. They’ve only really made a lot of money in America, and critically, they’ve been less than praised. While target audiences do seem to enjoy them, the general reviews aren’t too kind. Perhaps because of this success, the trailer for Captive made it seem like it was one of these films, despite the fact that this true story didn’t really seem to have much connection to religion at all.
Captive starts following two-story threads. The first is Kate Mara’s Ashley Smith, a single mother with a drug addiction, who doesn’t have custody of her daughter and has just moved into a new house, and David Oyelowo’s Brian Nichols, a man who breaks out of court moments before he’s going to be put on trail, and murders the judge who was set to convict him to a life sentence for sexual assault. The two stories meet when Nichols is on the run, and seen an opportunity to break into Smith’s house, and hold her hostage while he’s hiding.
So something I’ve just mentioned links quite closely to one of the big issues with this film. On paper, both of these characters aren’t people we should like. A drug addict who can’t look after her children, and a murderer who’s also been accused of rape. They’re both presented as being likeable, and being good people, which is normally something I would praise, however it doesn’t really address them as being characters that fall into that grey area, but simply as good people who are misunderstood, which is really missing an opportunity.
That being said, there is a surprising amount of character development for both leads. We find out a surprising amount about each of their lives, and how they got to where they are in their lives now. The film is also quite tense, and the fact that it’s more or less entirely set over the course of one night really helps, as well as the fact that it’s all quite believable as a true story.
So, what about the religious aspect of this film? I understand that to the real life Ashley Smith, this was probably quite a big part of the experience, as reading the self-help book The Purpose Driven Life helped to get her and Nichols through the night, however in the film it just seems a little bit forced. For the most part it was quite subtle, and as a non religious viewer I appreciated that, however, and this is a very minor spoiler for the film, the beginning of the end credits sequence features real life footage of Ashley Smith on Oprah, where she meets the writer of The Purpose Driven Life, and literally every ounce of subtlety goes out the window. Had that footage not been added I would’ve come away having enjoyed this film quite a bit more.
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