Captive is, above anything else, a film of perfectly played performances”

by Steve Pulaski

On March 11, 2005, Brian Nichols, a man arrested for rape, escaped from the Fulton County courthouse in Atlanta, where he proceeded to kill four people and seek refuge in the home of a recovering crystal meth addict named Ashley Smith, where he held her hostage whilst he stayed clear of the law. During this time, Smith, who constantly feared for her life, with a young daughter living at her mother’s home, used Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” to help change Nichols’s ways and become a man emancipated from the shackles of God’s sin. Jerry Jameson’s film Captive helps shed light on the events that took place whilst Smith was a prisoner in her own home, fearing for her life.

Captive is likely to get lumped under the category of a faith-based film, somewhat rightfully so, but in the end, it’s a character piece at its core. It’s a film that really emphasizes human imperfections and how certain situations can lead us down a path of perpetual wrongdoing, or sin, if we’re not careful. A key scene in the film comes when Brian (played by David Oyelowo, who shocked with his tremendous portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. earlier in the year in the film Selma) is holding Ashley’s (Kate Mara, who was in last month’s Fantastic Four) head down into a plate of crystal meth, forcing her to take a line after making him take one himself. She refuses, even with a gun to the back of her head, and just as she weeps, thinking she’s living the last few moments of her life, Brian loosens the grip on her neck and leaves her unharmed.

Ashley could’ve easily taken the meth; she would’ve probably felt the kind of high she long-desired and was trying to break free from this whole time. But something inside her told her to stop, to the point that she’d rather die from a bullet in her skull than from ingesting drugs to get her momentary fix. Brian is in the same position, in a situation not much more extreme than the one Ashley is currently in. He has a choice to either potentially carry on in his ostensibly endless pursuit of killing, carjacking, and destroying more lives than those he has killed, yet he parks at Ashley’s house for a reason. She doesn’t fight, she doesn’t resist, but she simply adheres to his commands and hopes that some sort of positive outcome will come out of this situation.

Directed by
Jerry Jameson
Kate Mara, David Oyelowo, Mimi Rogers
Release Date
18 September 2015
Steve’s Grade: C

This is a film made largely by the strength of its central performances. David Oyelowo plunges himself into a violent, unrelenting sociopath with unflinching conviction; the only thing his mean face and persona is missing is a pitbull-esque growl and snarl and he’d be the perfect cinematic murderer. Oyelowo’s performance is terrific, and makes me assert that, in the next ten years, he will win an Oscar for one of his performances, supporting or leading (most likely leading); mark my words and place your bets.

Kate Mara shouldn’t be ignored either, for she has an arguably more challenging role. Where Oyelowo’s performance is largely predicated off of being menacing and violent, Mara’s is one that’s tender and vulnerable, heartbreakingly so. Put the two leading actors together and they create a strange, but viable chemistry for the film; one the film manages to sustain while it simultaneously forgoes its most important element – suspense. Despite the subject matter, this is a shockingly low-energy film, never rising to its ability to provide credible suspense nor capitalizing off of the inherent tension between its characters.

Captive is, above anything else, a film of perfectly played performances, and the fact it underplays its faith themes for more investing elements like character chemistry shows it’s intelligence. This is, above all, a human film, about human experiences and shortcomings, and despite the lacking of real suspense, especially with the film’s ending, since the buildup largely falls flat, this is a stunningly mature faith-based film, lacking any real sermonizing or guilt in the face of portraying something that will hold up longer than the aforementioned qualities every would.