I’m guiltier than most at giving auteur Atom Egoyan the benefit of the doubt, but with his latest film, The Captive, I’m starting to wonder which one of us is starting to lose his marbles.
The captive in question is a young girl, abducted by perhaps the creepiest human being alive, a pencil-mustached, chipmunk-faced freak named Mika (Kevin Durand), who keeps poor Cass (Alexia Fast) in a fully furnished cinder block room in his home. For years, her parents (Tina (Mireille Enos) and Matthew (Ryan Reynolds), as unlikely a couple as film has ever seen) have been searching for her… and Mika is making matters worse, periodically leaving little clues (like baby teeth) for mom to find in the hotel room she cleans every day. Into the picture come the cops, with Rosario Dawson and Scott Speedman “investigating” in ways that would feel more at home on a typical episode of Scooby-Doo.
The Captive plays out over multiple timelines, which is a necessary conceit to divert your attention from the bumbling inanity on display here — both of its characters and the man behind the camera. As usual, Egoyan spends some loving moments capturing the starkness of the Canadian winter and the majesty of Niagara Falls, while his stars are left to fumble for their scripts.
And so much of The Captive plays like those script pages got somehow out of order, as we’re left no explanation for the baffling plot points that Egoyan vomits up at us. Why would Speedman and Dawson’s characters — later in the film they’re a couple — allow their daughter to video chat with the pedophile ring from home? What technical magic gives Mika nearly complete control over any computer he encounters online? Why does Cass collaborate so fully with everything? And, most importantly, what’s up with Mika’s M.O. of taunting his victims to the point where he leaves elaborate clues? At one point Mika steals a truck trailer from a motel where Matthew (a landscaper) is asleep, and unloads the trees it is carrying one by one along the highway, leading Matthew to a nearby destination where his daughter is waiting… only to shoot him with a tranquilizer dart and take her away again!
If you haven’t seen the film, nothing I just wrote probably makes any sense to you, and it shouldn’t. I didn’t make any sense to me when I saw it, either. The cops have Matthew pegged for the culprit, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, so they don’t really follow up on anything until Dawson’s character also gets abducted in one of the most ludicrous examples of roofiedom you’ll find on film. She spends the last part of this pretty-looking yet totally dopey film tied up in a van. Which sounds preferable to another viewing.