Friday, 5 September 2014


The Captive plays like Atom Egoyan's greatest hits, and, like most such collections, is equal parts great and awful. A mystery film in which the ostensible answers are provided prior to the questions even being asked, Egoyan and co-writer David Fraser have structured a subtly inquisitive film about the control human beings are unknowingly submitted to by one another. It's also about abandonment, and not just narratively, but technically. One latches onto Egoyan's piercing study of grief, affectingly rendered in Mireille Enos' standout performance, or the chilling atmosphere of tension he manufactures out of his masterful, minimalist mise-en-scene, or any number of excellent storytelling tools he employs at any given moment. Yet his commitment to any and all of the above is only intermittent, and one can even observe his lack of care around his characters, whose ensemble connections can be interrupted at a moment's notice by a plot twist, or by sheer recklessness. The diversions into mannered maximalism suggest another nod toward Hitchcock from the Canadian filmmaker, and are beguilingly fascinating to behold, since they so often just beggar belief. His administering of these uber-theatrical touches doesn't work, due to their odd juxtaposition with the mundanity of everyday life that he can't avoid including, but they're fun additions to the curious texture of The Captive anyway. That mundanity doesn't become Egoyan - he's more comfortable focusing on twisted psychoanalysis, and as he quietly delves into the psyches of (some of) his characters, this film assumes an understated power. It's particularly effective visually, with sumptuous use of open spaces, windows, mirrors, screens and light. Egoyan actually enhances the mood of desperate despondency by thus intimating the vulnerability of his protagonists, and the terrifying implication of how impossible the central kidnapping must have been, yet how successful it was.