Starring Elisha Cuthbert (House of Wax, Girl Next Door), Daniel Gillies (Spider-Man 2, Trespassing), and Pruitt Taylor Vince (Identity, Constantine), Captivity is just as awful as a movie can be. Since I saw the film on Friday, July 13th, 2007, I’ve been trying to find something redeeming about the entire experience. But, it’s too hard. You literally have to be able to see between the lines to see something worth while about this recent horror film.
The story starts out by showing us the torturing of a person – whether it was a man or a woman, I still can’t figure it out. The killer sticks some tubes down the person’s throat, pours some undesirable liquid down a funnel, and blood starts draining out from their insides. Eventually, I guess the person bled to death but since this is an exploitation horror film, we’ll probably never know. Then the killer goes and seeks out his next victim.
The killer observes young supermodel, Jennifer (Cuthbert) as she’s doing a shoot, walking through an alley, and relaxing in some kind of Techno club. Jennifer is carrying around a scruffy little white dog. We later find out through a series of interviews, Jennifer is the biggest bee-itch in show biz. She loves herself, and she’s not afraid to let anyone know it. The killer grabs her up, stashes her away in a small, concrete room with a bathroom. The first thing this airhead does is test the killer’s patience. He offers her food, and she throws it back in his face – so to speak. Jennifer fights the killer every step of the way, no matter what, and gets punished for it almost every time. What a shock.
There is a point of being strong, and there’s a point where you’re just being stupid. If you think of all the strong women every put on film, from those great Betty Davis or Katharine Hepburn roles of the 30s and 40s to Sigourney Weaver’s own Ellen Ripley in Aliens, the characters were never dumb in their actions. They made mistakes, sure, but they knew better than to fight a hostile force in their lives the second they were introduced to it. Ellen Ripley isn’t going to go straight into the lion’s den of the alien nest, and start a boxing match with the alien queen. Jennifer would, and Jennifer would get killed three ways from sunday in the process. You don’t aggitate the situation anymore than it is.
In short, Captivity is definitely a lesson in what you DON’T do if you’re held captive by a masked man that likes to torture people.
The writers are partly to blame for this. They’ve been watching all of the Saw films, all Cameron-esque action films, and maybe Silence of the Lambs a little too much, I gather. We’ve got a story that has been regurgitated to a point where it’s now just so silly. A woman gets captured, thrown in a room, tortured – or made to believe she’s been tortured, and fights her way out of the situation. Let’s not forget, this is an ugly human being we’re rooting for. She’s self-obsessed, she has no respect for others – most likely us middle-class types (her fans), and she’s dumb as can be. Action movies like this need someone the audience can relate to. Don’t bother trying to relate to Jennifer. At one point, I was actually happy this killer was terrifying and torturing this young, heartless woman, secretly hoping we would see a major transformation in her character. The movie doesn’t even give us time to get to know this woman outside of captivity, and or get to see how the experience might effect the rest of her life.
Enter Ben (Vince) and Gary (Gillies), two men with a troubled past, and some very weird behavior for brothers. If you remember Spider-Man 2, you should be able to pick out Gillies in a crowd. He played J. Jonah Jameson astronaut son. After seeing him in Captivity, I would rather the man stick to appearances in movies. I’m a guy and I’m comfortable enough with my heterosexuality to say this, Gillies is handsome but the man is a terrible actor. Now, if you remember Identity at all, you’ll remember Vince as the starring narrator / real killer. He’s creepy. He’s good, but he’s creepy. They show too much of Gillies and not enough of the much more creepy Vince.
Acting: Bad. Cuthbert makes attempts to be good. I loved her in House of Wax. But, this role is not right for her at all.
Directing: Amateurish, boring, and just plain lame. Director Roland Jaffe (Super Mario Bros., The Scarlett Letter) has had many misses in the past and this is just one more on the list. He builds no suspense. He gives actors 1 second of screen time before moving on to the next terrible thing in the story. It’s almost as Jaffe expects only the sets and lighting to create feelings of suspense or tension. If he paid more attention to all of the other films from which this piece of crap was inspired, Jaffe might have a better understanding of what creates the fear or the excitement of those movies so effective.
Writing: What more can be said, it’s the worst writing for a horror film I’ve seen in a long time. There are more effective and inspired Friday the 13th / Jason stories. They don’t seem to get the subject matter or the horror genre at all. They certainly don’t understand what makes a great movie heroine or great movie victim.