I don’t even know what to say about Jerry Jameson’s Captive, yet another faith-based film diluted by its heavy-handed message and lukewarm melodramatics. Captive attempts to set itself apart by having a very specific desire to shill for author Rick Warren’s Christian devotional The Purpose Driven Life (nothing’s quite as cinematic as watching someone read) while attempting to be a gritty sort of thriller cum police procedural. Obviously, this doesn’t quite mesh. I guess, in theory, maybe it could, but not in the hands of director Jameson, a man whose credits include Mod Squad episodes and a long run on Walker, Texas Ranger, and writer Brian Bird, who wrote multiple episodes of Touched by an Angel.
The film is based on the true story of Ashley Smith, an Atlanta woman who was taken hostage by Brian Nichols, a fugitive wanted for multiple homicides, and the numerous hours they spent together before Smith convinced him to surrender, with help and inspiration from Warren’s book. This true-story conceit and the resumés of the filmmakers give a good idea of the level Captive operates on. Though it has the veneer of professionalism, this is really just Movie of the Week nonsense with a budget.
I mean, a cast of Kate Mara (Fantastic Four) and David Oyelowo (Selma) at least appears like something you might find in a real movie, but to what ends? Oyelowo, as Nichols, is horribly miscast since he’s one of film’s least menacing actors attempting to play an unstable rapist and murderer. He never knows the right pitch, either coming off, in a strange way, too innately likable or almost comical — like the scene where he smokes meth, starts shoving numerous pistols into his waistband and basically plays it like coked-up Alfred Molina in Boogie Nights (1997). Mara comes off better only because her character is so nonexistent that she’s given less opportunity to genuinely embarrass herself.
In order to pad the film and a story we already know the conclusion to, Captive adds a police procedural aspect to the plot, with Michael K. Williams playing the detective hunting down Nichols. This is not very interesting, and mostly feels like it’s going through the motions of what a Law & Order episode would do. A Law & Order episode would’ve been a much better prospect, since it’d be shorter, devoid of Jameson’s shaky-cam cinematography, and any ads for Christian literature would be confined to commercial breaks. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving violence and substance abuse.