Atom Egoyan’s The Captive Boasts One Great Mystery: What Was the Director Thinking?


Originally one of Canada’s great formalist masters of squirrelly
obsession, Atom Egoyan has lost his way since he appeared in the late ’80s, hunting for relevance as his material and style have crept toward the lukewarm mainstream.

In some ways this topical psychodrama looks like a return to form — a time-jumping study of deviance, trauma, voyeurism, and family destruction centered on a pedophilic kidnapping-confinement case à la the travails of Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Lee Dugard. But when it isn’t TV-movie familiar, Egoyan’s film is bughouse crazy, mixing in campy pulp elements that bleed pressure away from the story.

Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos are the shattered parents, Kevin Durand is the slithery kidnapper, and Alexia Fast is the abducted girl grown to teenager over eight years of furnished-cell imprisonment in the back of an Ontario house. Much is made of the style conflict between Scott Speedman’s and Rosario Dawson’s respective investigators, for reasons that are unclear, but eventually Egoyan introduces the mechanics of the perv’s “ring,” which includes leaving baby teeth around for Mom to find, vengeful plots to kidnap individual cops, car chases, gunfights, and, in one stupefying scene, a vampy seductress (in cahoots with the child-rapers) drugging Dawson’s drink at a public soiree.

What could Egoyan have been thinking? Reynolds and especially Enos are convincing as hell, but the all-too-real nightmare scenario hardly mixes with the nutty side dish of Feuillade’s Les Vampires. Maybe the director’s commentary on the DVD will make it all clear.