WRITER/DIRECTOR RUPERT WYATT’S BIG IDEAS MISSES THE MARK AND LEAVES YOU IN A LESS THAN “CAPTIVE STATE”
Rupert Wyatt makes his third feature following his underrated remake “The Gambler” starring Mark Wahlberg and Brie Larson. Best known for his work as a director on his big screen debut “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes”. The first film that starred James Franco in the new series of reboots that was released in 2011. Wyatt has some big ideas in “Captive State”, but manages to miss the mark. Wyatt tries to set up a global epidemic storyline much like he did in “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes”, but instead Wyatt leaves you in a less than “Captive State”.
After a brief, frantic and intriguing prologue set during the initial alien invasion, we are zoomed forward nine years to Chicago of 2027. The mostly unseen aliens are known as “legislators”, a name given by the humans. But there’s a band of underground insurgents who refer to the aliens as “roaches”, who use old fashioned means of communication such as carrier pigeons and hidden messages in the classifieds section of print newspapers to communicate. Since the aliens have confiscated all smart phones, computers and anything electronic who are collecting every bit of data in the world, for reasons never fully explained within the film.
The aliens have created a subterranean lair known as the “Closed Zone,” using complicit humans to carry out their vision for control, generating a new government while depleting natural resources. Gabriel (Ashton Sanders from the Oscar winner “Moonlight”) is a young man trying to survive, working for the aliens as they seek to destroy and collect digital communication and information. He also deals with the legacy of his older brother, Rafe (Jonathan Majors), who died while part of a resistance group determined to disrupt extraterrestrial rule. Carefully shaping his own dreams of freedom, Gabriel is shocked to find Rafe alive and part of Phoenix, a rebel unit putting together a mission to detonate an alien explosive device at Soldier Field during a “Unity Rally” meant to celebrate overlord accomplishments. Working for the enemy is William (John Goodman), a detective obsessed with finding Phoenix, using resources and Gabriel to reach Rafe and prevent their act of terrorism.
The problem with “Captive State” is that there is so much going on and so much left unanswered that Wyatt’s film would have made for a better mini-series. The mini-series or limited series approach would have been the smartest choice as the characters of “Captive State” feel more like impressions of people. Rupert Wyatt who directs and writes, creates a story that plows through so many incidents that there isn’t much time to flesh them out, you feel very little for the characters.
Working with Universal Pictures indie offspring company Focus Features, the limitations of the budget are felt. This is no “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” wheter you look at it on budget, scale, character development and certainly within it’s visual effects. Rupert Wyatt takes a docu-drama approach much like “Cloverfield” and “District 9”, with a mix of the 1983 mini-series “V”. Wyatt favors nighttime chases which also help conceal the special effects restrictions. It’s visually murky, choppily edited and lacking both narrative clarity and defined characterizations, “Captive State” is a deeply frustrating viewing experience.
“Captive State” suffers from not only character development but the lack of a protagonist. It initially seems like “Moonlight’s” Ashton Sanders is the lead, but his story is ditched about forty-five minutes in, with him off-screen for the whole second act before re-emerging in the third. The aliens when you can see them out of the three times they appear, make that cliched clickety-click sound favored by many big screen predatory aliens, and they resemble a Sea Urchin with human appendages when they get agitated. The alien ships are modeled to look like an oversized kidney stone floating in the sky.
“Captive State” is slow for the first 3/4 of the movie. It takes a while out of it’s 2 hour run time to understand the storyline. It is not an alien invasion action, blood and guts sci-fi thriller. Wyatt aims for a more cerebral, social-commentary approach. For some it’ll seem like the worst of the alien invasion films, here’s looking at you “Skyline”. While others will see it as the most sophisticated alien invasion film since Amy Adams in “The Arrival”.
I’d rather have gotten a brain probing by the Aliens then have to sit through “Captive State” again. Just to think that Rupert Wyatt left the Marvel production of “Gambit” to complete this movie. What a mistake that was. More than once, I found myself thinking “Captive State” would have worked better as a series on Netflix or Amazon Prime. It’s packed with more than enough characters and story to have kept the momentum going beyond what Rupert Wyatt laid out for us in the film. He just doesn’t answer a lot of his questions and packs too much in a short amount of time. After this no one is longer allowed to bash his remake of “The Gambler” (which is very good) as “Captive State” is his most disappointing film to date. It doesn’t captivate you, it just holds you captive.
GRADE: ★☆☆☆☆ (1 out of 5)