Captive (2015)

Captive (2015)
  • Time: 97 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Jerry Jameson
  • Cast: Kate Mara, David Oyelowo, Michael Kenneth Williams, Mimi Rogers


In this fact-based thriller, a single mother struggling with drug addiction is randomly taken hostage in her own apartment by a man on the run from the law for breaking out of jail and murdering the judge assigned to his case – only to realize before the climactic finish that they have actually saved each other’s lives.


  • The faith-tinged true crime drama, Captive, functions less like a film and more of an advertisement for the book on which it was based, Unlikely Angel by Ashley Smith, and, more importantly, Rick Warren’s best-selling The Purpose Driven Life. Stars David Oyelowo and Kate Mara deliver sold, sometimes excellent, work but can’t detract viewers from Captive’s Lifetime TV movie trappings.

    Smith (Mara) is a single mother struggling to overcome her meth addiction in order to regain custody of her young daughter, who is currently living with Smith’s aunt (Mimi Rogers). Given Warren’s book at a Celebrate Recovery meeting, she immediately disposes of it but it winds its way back into her possession.

    Brian Nichols (Oyelowo) is a former college football player with a degree in economics who once had two good jobs. Now facing 25 years in prison for the rape, kidnapping and assault of his longtime girlfriend, he manages to shoot his way out of a courtroom, leaving three dead bodies and one severely injured individual in his wake. A citywide manhunt, led by Detectives John Chestnut and Carmen Sanchez (Michael K. Williams and Leonor Varela), is in full effect for this “killer with no conscience,” as one news reporter describes Nichols.

    Smith and Nichols cross paths when she makes the fateful decision to fetch cigarettes from her car in the middle of the night as he is slowly driving past her house. Nichols holds Smith hostage in her home for the next seven hours, during which time they eventually let their guards down, reveal personal failures and regrets, and come to something resembling understanding.

    It is also during this tense period that Nichols offhandedly asks Smith to read from Warren’s book, the words of which trigger a spiritual re-awakening for both parties. The film is admirable in the subtlety of its proselytising, but its restraint is also a drawback. Warren’s words are tossed into the mix, yet are given no import, a curious decision considering they allegedly had so meaningful an impact on Nichols that he ultimately did the right thing, releasing Smith and surrendering himself to the police.

    For all its chatter about life having meaning and finding one’s purpose, the film itself feels devoid of direction and intent. It’s competently put together by veteran director Jerry Jameson, but its uninspired aura and somewhat incomplete narrative makes it difficult to elicit any emotional investment on the audience’s part. It helps to have Oyelowo and Mara on board, though both deserve infinitely better material. Nevertheless, both actors are persuasive even when their characters’ motivations are not. Oyelowo, in particular, convinces as the paranoid desperado who genuinely believes he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

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  • “Every time I do it I think : “This is the last time. I can control this.” And I do it again and again and again. I just can’t… I just can’t stop. I like it too much.”

    The transformation Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo) undergoes, is irrefutable miraculous. He’s a convicted criminal who manages to violently escape out of a courthouse, where he was waiting for his conviction after allegedly raping his girlfriend. During this escape he murders a number of people in cold blood, including the judge. This is the beginning of a major manhunt, initiated by the police departments in Atlanta. Until he bumps into Ashley Smith (Kate Mara), a young woman who is trying to kick the habit of using Crystal Meth, and takes her hostage in her own apartment. And thus the miracle happens. The reading of the bestseller “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren brings Brian to repentance. Hallelujah.

    I don’t want to detract from what actual happened and how the offender Brian, by hearing positive messages and a religious inspired guidance, managed to get his act together so his humane and kind side could take over again. And this despite the fact that his life is a complete mess and there isn’t a bright future awaiting him. From my own experience I know that resorting to the basic elements of a balanced life is lifesaving. And it doesn’t matter this is accomplished by listening to a learned person or a soul mate. Or by reading appropriate literature. 5 Years ago I found myself with my back against the wall. By adjusting my philosophy of life, rearranging my priorities and fighting daily against what would be my downfall, my life has changed radically. Yes it”s something wonderful and miraculous, but no need to make a film about it.

    That’s my feeling about this film. The message in this film contains a wonderful thing and is unique. The fact that it’s possible for an individual to give meaning to his life. That applies to both Brian and Ashley. Ashley sees how her life slowly derails. Her husband murdered because of her drug addiction. And her daughter taken away from her because of her disability to be a caring mother. And Brian seeing another opportunity to meet his newborn son sometime in the future. That this happened again by the hands of the Almighty God, of course will please the religious community in our society. Therefor this film is ideal as an educational film for an ecumenical community or a religious tinted television channel.

    The only thing I found inappropriate, was the ending showing Ashley Smith in person during an Oprah talk show where she tells her story and promotes the book that saved her live and at the same time that of the abductor. The moment the author of the acclaimed book walks into the studio, I was overtaken by a sickening feeling. The entire film was suddenly reduced to nothing more than a tele-shopping program. I’m sure there are people whose life drastically changed after reading this book. But I can imagine there are thousands of people who experienced a drastic change of life thanks to another inspiring book. Lets hope they won’t turn every such experience into a movie ….

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