Atom Egoyan’s unfairly overlooked film “The Captive”.

"The Captive"

The Cap­tive”

What­ev­er hap­pened to Cana­di­an film mak­er Atom Egoy­an? Dur­ing the 1990s, he proved him­self to be one of the most excit­ing direc­tors work­ing any­where in the world.

After Fam­i­ly View­ing (’87), Speak­ing Parts (’89) and the crim­i­nal­ly over­looked Cal­en­dar (’93) he won inter­na­tion­al acclaim with the bril­liant­ly intri­cate Exot­i­ca in 1994, which was one of the films of the decade.

He fol­lowed that up in 1997 with The Sweet Here­after which was almost as impres­sive. It won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes and saw Egoy­an nom­i­nat­ed for an Oscar for Best Direc­tor and Best Adapt­ed Screenplay.

Felicia’s Jour­ney was some­thing of a mis­step in 1999, but he seemed to be back on song again with Ararat in 2002.

So what has hap­pened since? Well, there was an attempt at a rel­a­tive­ly big bud­get film in ’05 with Where The Truth Lies, star­ing Col­in Firth and Kevin Bacon. Which was all right, if some­what pedestrian.

Then there was Ado­ra­tion in ’08, which felt strained and effort­ful. And, again, pedes­tri­an. The “erot­ic thriller” Chloe fol­lowed in ’09, and then in ’13 the unnec­es­sary and baf­fling­ly straight Devil’s Knot.

So The Cap­tive, which was screened last year at Cannes, is very much some­thing of a return to form. Eight years after their daugh­ter is abduct­ed, her par­ents Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos dis­cov­er evi­dence that she might still be alive.



All of Egoyan’s usu­al pre­oc­cu­pa­tions sur­face. That sense of insid­i­ous intru­sion that we all feel liv­ing in a world where every­one is being watched. And where the nature of an event and the search for truth is some­how warped when that event is seen cap­tured on a screen.

And how the same events appear in a dif­fer­ent light and present lay­ers of con­flict­ing truths, when they are viewed at one remove on a screen, as those view­ing the events are them­selves watched by us, on ours.

Some peo­ple have com­plained that the sto­ry stretch­es creduli­ty. And it cer­tain­ly would have been a pleas­ant sur­prise if the vil­lain hadn’t been so vis­i­bly las­civ­i­ous. The banal­i­ty of evil is much more inter­est­ing and much more cred­i­ble than the sight of man twid­dling his mous­tache with such the­atri­cal rel­ish. And cast­ing Rosario Daw­son as a social work­er was always going to be a stretch in any universe.

But the film nonethe­less main­tains a won­der­ful­ly taut sense of ten­sion through­out, and is I fear a much more real­is­tic and bet­ter researched por­tray­al of pae­dophile rings and their sophis­ti­cat­ed net­work of vir­tu­al war­rens than many would like to believe.

Rosario Dawson looking more exotica than social worker.

Rosario Daw­son look­ing more exot­i­ca than social worker.

It’s not hard to under­stand why it was so com­plete­ly over­looked at Cannes last year and after its release sub­se­quent­ly, giv­en how far from grace Egoy­an has fall­en of late. But don’t be fooled by that recent form. The Cap­tive is a tense, intri­cate­ly woven thriller that delves into the dark­est crevices of the human psy­che with verve and intelligence.

You can see the trail­er for The Cap­tive here. And for The Sweet Here­after here. The Exot­i­ca trail­er is quite sim­ply pants. So here’s a taster that some­one’s post­ed up as an alternative.

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