2014 / Director. Atom Egoyan.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Atom Egoyan is amongst my favourite Canadian directors and he was one of the first auteurs (I loathe that expression) that I was fully besotted with. His early films are incredible and his work in the 90s is about as good as filmmaking gets. THE ADJUSTER and EXOTICA are titles that stuck with me throughout film school and THE SWEET HEREAFTER still remains one of my favourite films of all time. It's fair to say that his work has declined over the past 15 years and while he has maintained a level of credibly, he has towed a safe line and kept himself restrained. His latest film is THE CAPTIVE, which he also wrote and produced. It tells the story of a young girl who is kidnapped from under her father's nose and we watch the eight years that follow her disappearance unfold. Her father (Ryan Reynolds) raises suspicions as he butts heads with a tenacious and arrogant detective and he sets about finding his daughter alone. Meanwhile a special task force investigates and attempts to infiltrate online pedophile rings. With the sinister network of child sex offenders years ahead of the police with deep encryptions and security, the case is a long and arduous process. To say more is to reveal key plot elements. The story is convoluted and almost impenetrable as the narrative bounces between timelines without any distinguishable switches. I found myself lagging behind, trying to figure out which moment in time the story was at, and by the time I caught up, the narrative was another two steps ahead. That is not to say that the structure of the film is bad. It may well benefit from a second viewing. I also felt like there were a lot of hidden implications and underlying suggestions throughout the story that may made little sense at that time but might become obvious a second time around. The acting from all players is excellent and Ryan Reynolds' performance is outstanding. He really digs deep and offers an emotionally charged turn. The film also looks stunning and Egoyan's long-serving cinematographer Paul Sarossy recaptures a similar atmosphere to the incredible THE SWEET HEREAFTER, and if Egoyan had taken more care with the pacing and slowed it down he would have created a fitting companion piece. Perhaps he has become too mainstream, or maybe he has lost his nerve... whatever the case he has become a safe filmmaker who has lost his edge. THE CAPTIVE is a heavy film dealing with a taboo subject matter, but it is clunky and riddled with implausibilities and plot holes. Fortunately is looks great and is lifted by a competent ensemble cast and might just have another layer of complexities that aren't apparent with just one viewing. And so I will return to it soon and offer a reevaluation. Watch this space.