Oyelowo and Real, Gritty Faith Ensure This Christian Film Has a Captive Audience
- Susan Ellingburg Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2015 17 Sep
DVD Release Date: January 5, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: September 18, 2015
Rating: PG-13 (mature thematic elements involving violence and substance abuse)
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Run Time: 97 minutes
Director: Jerry Jameson
Cast: Kate Mara, David Oyelowo, Michael K. Williams, Mimi Rogers, Leonor Varela, Jessica Oyelowo
Behind every big, breaking news story that flashes across your TV screen, there are real people whose lives will be forever changed. In 2005, Ashley Smith became one of those people when she went out for cigarettes and wound up as the hostage of a man wanted for multiple murders. Based on her real-life ordeal, Captive is a story of second chances, purpose, and hope.
Having lost custody of her five-year-old daughter, Ashley (Kate Mara, We Are Marshall) is trying to clean up her act. She has a job and a new apartment; she's even going to Celebrate Recovery meetings. But the lure of "ice" (crystal meth) is so strong it will take something big to break its hold... something like Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo, Selma), a desperate man on a killing spree who decides to hole up in Ashley's apartment with her inside.
Mara nicely captures the just-barely-functioning Ashley. The difficulty of leading a drug-addled life shows in her vacant stare and the visible effort it takes her to slog through everyday tasks. Her stillness has a palpable presence, like a cornered animal trying to be invisible. The only bright spots are when her genuine love for her daughter periodically breaks through the fog in Ashley's brain. It's clear from the beginning that Ashley's real enemy is not the fugitive in her apartment; it's the addiction in her body and spirit.
Oyelowo is surprisingly likeable as Nichols, who fights his way out of the Fulton County courthouse, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Sure, he'll shoot you as soon as look at you, but Nichols doesn't come off so much 'evil' as 'terrifyingly unclear on the concept.' He's a man on a mission and if people would just get out of his way, all would be well… at least, from his standpoint. Through all of Nichols's moods—and they are many—Oyelowo remains imminently watchable.
The story isn't solely focused on these two, which is a good thing; the pace is slow enough as it is, and some of their conversations are overly full of long, painful pauses. After Nichols eludes capture at the courthouse, the police just about shut down Atlanta in their effort to find the fugitive. As the detective in charge of the case, Michael K. Williams (The Road) tries his best but can't quite match Oyelowo's intensity. In the end, just as in real life, Rick Warren's book The Purpose Driven Life has more to do with the resolution than the police.
From a filmmaking perspective, Captive is a mixed bag. Nichols's courthouse activities are shown in a way that get the point across with just enough violence to be effective without being gratuitous. That's a nice touch. Not so nice is the picture quality—the camera is often shaky. It's not clear if this is meant to communicate the main characters' fragile emotional states or if it's just sloppy camera work, but the result is distracting.
From a storytelling angle, best-selling author Dr. Henry Cloud said it best when he described Captive as showing "faith as it works in real life… no sugar coating, no platitudes." He's right: It's not sappy, there's no schmaltzy music or 'heavenly' lighting, and the story does not end with everything tied up in a pretty Christian bow. It's too real for that. This is unvarnished truth about drug addiction, life and death situations, and the power of God to work through anyone and anything... even through a murderer and an unwanted book.
If you stick around after the film ends, you'll find a glimpse of the real-life Ashley with Rick Warren and Oprah Winfrey. There's also some "where are they now" info and photos of Nichols' victims. The movie's official site offers free resources including a discussion guide in both youth and adult versions.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Drugs/Alcohol: Ashley is a drug addict; we see both her and Nichols snort meth and deal with the consequences. Nichols notes that his dad was "a mean drunk."
- Language/Profanity: None noted
- Sex/Nudity: Nichols takes a shower with Ashley in the bathroom (bound and effectively blindfolded) but he is only shown from the waist up. He is noted as on trial for rape; at one point he appears to be about to commit rape.
- Violent/Frightening/Intense: Nichols commits several vicious attacks, steals cars, and shoots people in cold blood. Most of the movie is about the seven hours Nichols held Ashley hostage, so that has a certain intensity, as do the police chases and final standoff.
- Spiritual Themes: The film opens with Romans 5:20 and the story goes on to be a testament to God's grace and forgiveness. Pastor Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life is read out loud and plays an important role in the outcome.
Publication date: September 17, 2015