In March 2005, Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo), awaiting trial for rape managed to escape the day of his hearing and went on a killing spree, shooting the judge trying his case and several others on his way out of the courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia. Quickly becoming a high-profile hunt for Nichols, he seeks and finds shelter by holding Ashley Smith (Kata Mara), a drug addict who had her daughter taken from her custody, hostage in her own apartment. To get through the 26 hours she’s held hostage, Smith reads “The Purpose Driven Life,” by Rick Warren aloud, probably in hopes that Nichols (as well as herself) will find some sort of redemption.

Captive is based on the true story and book by Ashley Smith called “An Unlikely Angel,” so you can imagine how one-sided this story is. And there’s certainly no excuse or truly redeeming qualities about Brian Nichols, but the fact that this film is… well, so fact-based that it never gives way to being anything but a rehash of that night. The film, while being hailed as faith-based, really isn’t all that faith-based. There are a couple of scenes that come off being a bit too obviously preachy, but nothing entirely bothersome to anyone who doesn’t prefer those kinds of movies.

The film would have been nothing without its strong lead performances by Oyelowo and Mara, who capture all the tension, fear, and anger there is to behold. Mara’s character, addicted to meth, can’t shake it off and let it go, but the events of the night scare her into trying to be a better mother and valuing her life more to be able to be there for her daughter. Oyelowo gives a performance that is equal parts menacing and strangely sad, as though he knows he’s done all these wrong things and there’s no turning back even if that means never being able to see his son.

Captive has its moments, primarily between Oyelowo and Mara, without which the film would have been hard to sit through. It’s very much a redemption movie, but is mostly overshadowed by the thriller aspect of the hostage situation and the police perspective (namely Michael K. Williams and Leonor Varela) as they chase Nichols from one lead to the next. As Nichols holds Smith hostage, there could have been much more relationship-building or perhaps something deeper could have gone down because we see Nichols break down his wall as the night goes on, when he could have easily killed her, but we’re never given a reason for why he does so other than assuming it was the Rick Warren book that changed his mind. Also, the post-credit Oprah sequence is a bit much. Ultimately, the film is underwhelming but carries strong performances.



Release: September 18, 2015 | Director: Jerry Jameson | Screenwriter: Brian Bird | Cast: David Oyelowo, Kate Mara, Michael K. Williams, Mimi Rogers, Leonor Varela, Jessica Oyelowo | Genre: Drama, Thriller | MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving violence and substance abuse


About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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