Captive is everything you want a faith-based film to be.
Captive is real. Captive is honest. Captive is compelling and thrilling and intimate and universal. Captive commands your attention and never lets it go. Captive lives into a faith that doesn't need to be preached to come alive. Captive trusts its faith in a way that War Room doesn't begin to trust.
Captive accomplishes what very few faith-based films actually accomplish - it makes you believe.
Here's the thing. Captive isn't a faith-based film.
It's not. Not really.
Captive is most certainly about faith and redemption, but it is also most certainly not a film that aspires to do what a good majority of contemporary faith-based cinema seeks to accomplish. While some will likely end up arguing that Captive occasionally tap dances over that line toward preachiness, especially with its undeniable embrace of Pastor Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life, the film isn't even remotely about evangelizing. Captive is about faith. Captive is about redemption. Captive is, indeed, about purpose and drive and life and hope and miracles and finding a light even when enveloped by darkness.
Captive isn't a faith-based film, but it's everything a faith-based film should aspire to be.
Based on a true story, Captive tells the story of Ashley Smith (Kata Mara, Fantastic Four), a single mother struggling with drug addiction who is taken hostage by Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo, Selma), a man on the run from the law after breaking out of jail and killing the judge assigned to his case. The story, and it should again be emphasized that it's true, centers around how a meth-addicted young woman desperately trying to cling to her sobriety and win back custody of her daughter can build a relationship with a paranoid and similarly addicted captor whose actions, from minute-to-minute, are impulsive and potentially lethal.
While Captive, a Paramount Pictures release, is not what one expects from a faith-based film it should be noted that Paramount has ripped a page out of the Sherwood Pictures cinematic notebook and has assembled a wealth of teaching and preaching resources available on the Captive website.
Captive's real life story happened in 2005 when Smith, names have not been changed here, was held hostage by Nichols for several hours. During her captivity, Smith read aloud chapter 32 of Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life, to which she gives much of the credit for Nichol's willingly letting her go after having shot four people earlier in the day. While playing somewhat loose with the facts, almost a Hollywood inevitability, Captive is surprisingly faithful to the more raw elements of the story including the almost palpable tension around the potential for sexual assault and Smith's having provided Nichols with crystal meth during the incident in an effort to pacify him.
It's the raw elements in Captive that may prove most jarring to some persons of faith who've come to expect sugar-coated tension and easy-to-swallow action elements that hint at tragedy but never really bring it to the forefront. While on the edgier end of the faith-inspired spectrum, Captive is already gaining its supporters across the theological spectrum ranging from Rick Warren himself to The Dove Foundation to quite a few others who are embracing its truth, honesty and ultimately inspirational message.
Of course, it undeniably helps to have a quality cast and it simply doesn't get much better than the pairing of David Oyelowo, a Golden Globe nominee for his performance as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, and the Emmy-nominated Kate Mara. I mean, c'mon, Oyelowo takes a character who shoots four people BEFORE taking Smith hostage and manages to make us care about him. Oyelowo's Nichols is a desperate man, possibly mentally ill, having been arrested for a crime he truly believes he did not commit. Desperate to reach his son, Oyelowo's Nichols has a purpose that almost denies understanding but Oyelowo makes us understand that underneath it all there's still a purpose there. It's a riveting, unforgettable performance in what could have so easily simply been a one-note role.
The same is true for Mara's performance as Ashley Smith. Mara makes us embrace the humanity of Ashley Smith, a young woman who had it all yet who'd thrown it all away because of her addiction. She's a tragic figure in many ways, but Mara never gives us such a lazy and easy performance. Instead, Mara's Smith is likely much closer to the truth - flawed yet determined and vulnerable yet able to tap into a strength even she'd never known she possessed.
Captive is directed by Jerry Jameson, a veteran television and film director with credits ranging from The Mod Squad to Walker, Texas Ranger to Airport '77 among many others, and is penned by Brian Bird (The Ultimate Life) based upon Smith's book about her experiences.
Opening in theaters nationwide on September 18, Captive is the kind of film I always hope for when I find myself sitting in a movie theater ready to tackle yet another film about faith and redemption and life. I want to see truth. I want to see honesty. I want to be jarred and rattled and shook up out of my warm and fuzzy safety zones. I want my boundaries to be pushed, but I also want to be touched and inspired and enveloped.
I've often felt like films that truly preach don't actually trust their faith. It's as if they have to actually spell things out and give you their paint-by-numbers theological insights. Captive doesn't preach. It's a film that lives into its lessons about faith, redemption, hope and surrender. It's a film that sees truth and leans into it. It's a film that finds something absurdly glorious about flawed humanity and embraces it. It's a film that I simply can't forget about and it's a film I'm definitely going to watch again.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic