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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 09.16.14] Canada thriller

The last six years of Atom Egoyan's career have not been particularly kind to the director. Once considered one of the great voices of Canadian cinema, Egoyan's offerings over the last few years have been a case of diminishing returns. It seems that the addition of Hollywood stars has actually hurt rather than improved the films and Egoyan hit movie rock bottom with last year's poorly received Devil's Knot (review) which turned out to be one of the worst movies I had the misfortune to see last year.

Being a fan of the director's previous work, it was great to see that Egoyan's kidnapping thriller The Captive looked like a winner and perhaps a return to form for the director. Wishful thinking. Though it's a definite improvement on last year's offering, The Captive is also riddled with problems, all of them story related.

Mireille Enos and Ryan Reynolds star as Tina and Matthew respectively, loving parents of a little girl who goes missing from the back seat of her father's truck while he's picking up pie at the local shop. The cops, Nicole and new transfer Jeffrey, (Rosario Dawson and Scott Speedman), grill Matthew to rule him out as a suspect.

Fast forward a few years and we see Tina and Matthew's relationship has deteriorated to the point where they barely speak though surprisingly, they're still married. Tina resents Matthew for losing their daughter and he resents her for letting the police turn her against him. On the other side of the snowy town (apparently, it's always winter where they live), a well groomed and super creepy looking Kevin Durand plays the role of kidnapper, and maybe more.

There's a lot of material to dig into here, particularly for a director like Egoyan who has proven capable of delving deep into the emotional turmoil of suffering individuals (see The Sweet Hereafter) but with all of the ammunition he and co-writer David Fraser build directly into the story, he uses little of it. The crumbling relationship between Tina and Matthew, and even that of officers Nicole and Jeffrey, is only a passing thought, overshadowed by often convoluted plotting. At one point that appears to be years after the girl's disappearance, we see Nicole and Jeffrey dating; a surprise considering they could barely stand the sight of each other in a previous scene.

Instead of focusing on the characters, Egoyan spends his energy setting up an overly complicated storyline that feels more ridiculous with each passing minute. As soon as the movie stops being about a kidnapping and the human interest of the people involved and instead morphs into the weird thing it becomes (which is probably not completely unrealistic but feels completely unbelievable in this case), The Captive gets less interesting.

Despite what little they are given to do, the performances here are solid. Reynolds continues to prove that he can handle emotionally challenging roles and Durand, often cast as the muscle, is fantastically creepy as the kidnapper. Enos is the only one that doesn't fare as well but that's not her fault. She's fantastic as the outwardly emotional mother but she's given little to do beyond being weepy and angry and her performance feels like it's overshadowing everyone else; a real misfortune considering how well she is capable of handling powerfully quiet moments.

The Captive fares better than other recent Egoyan projects because of the performances and though it gets into considerably creepy territory and features some excellent moments, the entire thing feels more wacky than scary. Definitely not return to form but a step in the right direction.

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