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"CAPTIVE"
(2015) (Kate Mara, David Oyelowo) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Dramatic Thriller: A meth addict must contend with being taken hostage by an escaped convict.
PLOT:
Ashley Smith (KATE MARA) is a young waitress who works in the suburbs of Atlanta. Due to being addicted to meth, she's lost custody of her 5-year-old daughter, Paige (ELLE GRAHAM), who now lives with Ashley's mom, Kim Rogers (MIMI ROGERS). Ashley's just moved into a new apartment and is trying to get clean so that she can get Paige back, and the first step of that will be attending a performance Paige will be in the following morning.

At the same time, Brian Nichols (DAVID OYELOWO) has just broken out of the Fulton County jail, and shoots and kills a judge and a number of others, and then flees. After a series of carjackings and another murder, he spots Ashley out in the parking lot at night and kidnaps her. She's terrified and tries to make small talk to keep the situation from escalating into something more dangerous, all while local cops Lt. John Chestnut (MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS) and Sgt. Carmen Sandoval (LEONOR VARELA) head up a massive manhunt for the escaped convict, unaware that he's taken Ashley hostage.

As the night wears on, Ashley and Brian end up learning things about each other and themselves, partially with the help of Rick Warren's devotional book, "The Purpose Driven Life."

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Back in 1963 and then again thirty years later, a respected doctor was accused and convicted of murdering his wife, despite his protests of no wrongdoing. A freak vehicular accident on the way to prison, however, freed him and allowed him to set out to prove his innocence and find the responsible perpetrator, all while being pursued by the authorities who'd deemed him a fugitive from the law.

The first such incident occurred on the TV show "The Fugitive," while the latter transpired in the big screen adaptation that followed decades later. Starring Harrison Ford as the wrongly accused doc and Tommy Lee Jones as the U.S. Marshal after him, the pic was a box office success and earned seven Oscar nominations, including that of Best Picture.

While it has some of the same ingredients, it's highly unlikely "Captive" will follow suit. In it, a prisoner swears he's not guilty of rape, manages to get free from jail, and the local cops try to hunt him down. The differences, though, are quite obvious. Aside from not operating in the same realm of artistic excellence as the 1993 Andrew Davis film, the pic feels obligated (and rightly so) to stick, for the most part, to the facts of the true life incident that inspired it.

Accordingly, while Dr. Richard Kimble was a truly sympathetic character the audience quickly came to root for, David Oyelowo (fresh off his stellar performance in "Selma") is less so. And that doesn't really relate to the crime of which he's been accused.

Instead, it's from him murdering a judge and a number of people while escaping, followed by the kidnapping of a young widow who's trying to get her life back together. That's not from the death of her husband, mind you, but instead the custody loss of her 5-year-old daughter stemming from the mom's addiction to meth.

Thus, viewer sympathy automatically goes to that woman (Kate Mara) and the ordeal she must endure while held at gunpoint as the manhunt in and around Atlanta takes place outside her apartment walls. It's possible that you might remember news accounts of this true story, especially since that woman used Rick Warren's devotional book, "The Purpose Driven Life," to instill a change of heart in the killer and thus save her own life.

All of which sounds like it would make for a fascinating movie. But in the hands of director Jerry Jameson and writer Brian Bird (who's adapted Ashley Smith's account of the event, "An Unlikely Angel"), it only comes off okay. And much of that mediocre response is due to that strategic or accidental intervention getting something of the short shrift here. Aside from a few passages read aloud (in scenes that don't feel entirely realistic from the standpoint of the killer wanting that to happen), we don't really get to see the "magic" that transformed the man and ultimately saved the day. In fact, more attention is paid to that in an end credits scene where the real Smith appears on Oprah to talk about her ordeal and how Warren's book saved her life.

Thus, what we're given instead is a standard hostage storyline where the brute kidnaps the lady, she manages to soften him up a bit by showing she's human and frail (much like him under the surface), and the local police (played by Michael K. Williams and Leonor Varela as the leads on that side) try to find out where he's holed up and stop him before anyone else is hurt or killed.

Oyelowo and Mara are solid in their performances, with both bringing vulnerability and toughness to their parts. It's too bad the material doesn't always fully back up their work, while Williams and Varela can't do anything with their rote parts.

I understand the need to stick to the facts, but with the transformation not getting much screen time, the rest of the drama needed its own sort of change for the better to lift the rest of the story into greatness. That doesn't happen, and thus "Captive" doesn't end up captivating us like the previous incarnations of "The Fugitive." It rates as a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed September 12, 2015 / Posted September 18, 2015


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