WARNING!!! This review contains major plot spoilers – read at your own risk.
There are bad films, and then there is pure garbage – not even worth the celluloid used to film them. Can you guess which column Captivity fits in? If you were privy to the shit-storm created by its creepy, misogynist advertising back in 2007… you probably already know. If not – one glance over at its 7% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes will certainly fill you in.
Bad press didn’t help this film – nor did the fact that it’s really, truly terrible. Captivity is an exercise in doing everything wrong in a horror movie. The original story was bastardized to capitalize on “extreme horror” conventions – but the filmmakers didn’t bother adding any of the layers of complexity that most extreme horror attempts (see: Martyrs, Inside, The Devil’s Rejects). The acting is so thoroughly wooden the viewer never gives a damn about one of the handful of characters, and that’s just the tip of the shit-berg.
Fans of TV’s 24 will recognize Elisha Cuthbert, as just like in that torture-happy show – she is reduced to a crying, simpering, victim. She stars as Jennifer Lamb – a supposedly big-time fashion model, who is unlucky in love. Jennifer is a lot like what we think of when we think of High Fashion Models – vapid, shallow, self-serving, and dull. She’s also 5-foot-2… clearly the world’s itty-bittiest bigtime fashion model. While that might seem like a mighty nit-pick to many, it’s the first in numerous moments of disbelief – taking the viewer right out of the picture’s supposed reality-based fiction. She’s probably also 20 pounds too heavy – which is by no means an insult to the beautiful actress. She’s gorgeous, yes… but she never once looks more than an average American Beauty, as opposed to the Amazonian, bags-of-bone bodies required to be models of Haute Couture.
A shadowy creep kidnaps famous, lonesome Jennifer and places her in a cell in some unknown location. The moment she awakes and finds herself trapped was the one and only moment the film showed anything approaching realism. Jennifer freaks out and starts tearing up the joint, which had been setup to look like a semi-swanky hotel room for her – including many items from her own apartment. Here, the torture and terrorism starts. Once she’s encouraged by the unseen figure to wear other outfits – slutty ones he provides, she flips out some more and refuses – despite clear warnings that the dude is going to harm her. No model would ever be caught dead in that. *cough*
Harm her, he does – physically, mentally, emotionally, and more. There’s little to redeem about any of these scenes – they are devoid of any feeling, other than, “Hey, watch this guy make Cuthbert cry, apologize, and beg for her life”. But then it gets worse. Much, much worse. After she is tortured for 60 minutes of celluloid, Jennifer “discovers” that she has a cell-mate – a very attractive guy in a cell similar to hers next door. The Vampire Diaries Daniel Gillies plays her cell-mate, Gary – and he’s never once believable as anything other than what he is: a big, hunky, red-herring that isn’t.
Captivity tries very hard to convince you that Gary is not involved in Jennifer’s kidnapping. Never once does the viewer buy into this bullshit. So when the obligatory victim-sex scene occurs (…yes, you read that right…), it smacks of such utter contempt for the female species… it took everything in me not to spit out the DVD and forget this piece of garbage. Oh, but wait! Director Roland Joffe and crew decided this means that Jennifer is becoming EMPOWERED.
The female mind boggles. Yes, yes… we women, we become empowered when men treat us badly. We become empowered when we are made victims. Please – PLEASE torture us and keep us captive until we fall in love with you… because only then will be understand that we have power and can become mass-murderers just like men. No – I’m not remotely joking, the moral of Captivity is this: “‘If you treat women with violence, then they will become violent back.” (Joffe’s own words, btw.) At the end of Captivity, we learn that the very first murder shown was actually the future – Cuthbert’s Jennifer terrorizing and torturing a male killer of women.
YEAHHHHHHHH! WOOOHOOOO!!!! Jennifer’s my new Hero!!!!
Wait, no. No wooohoo. No visceral, revenge-fantasy thrill even. Just… a lot of yuck. Either Joffe or studio-interference made this film a vile example of everything it was supposedly meant to speak against. Either way, it’s crap – not even good enough to warrant curiosity over its exploitative existence. If you’re going to make an exploitation film – at least own up to it. Don’t claim you had some sort of feminist agenda in creating the misogynist mess. So just what was celebrated, Oscar-nominated director Roland Joffé doing slumming with this garbage? Who knows. Never in a million years would I have thought the brilliant, sensitive auteur behind The Killing Fields would be able to make such reprehensible dreck.
Live and learn, man.
If you want to torture yourself with this dull, offensive, badly-written, and poorly-acted crap – by all means, you can find Captivity on Amazon Instant, Playstation Store, and various other places. Be forewarned – depending on the version you watch, the film may or may not have the explanation that Jennifer becomes a killer herself. There are various versions flying around – some that make this clear, others that do not. Either way – it’s still just poop.