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Review: Superb David Oyelowo and Kate Mara deliver embodied performances in ‘Captive’

David Oyelowo and Kate Mara in "Captive."

David Oyelowo and Kate Mara in “Captive.”

(Evan Klanfer / Paramount Pictures)

Based on the true story of a 2005 crime spree in Atlanta, the performance-driven “Captive” starring David Oyelowo and Kate Mara manages to take the high road, mostly, in depicting a sensational kidnapping story.

This drama focuses on the unlikely connection between fugitive Brian Nichols (Oyelowo) and his hostage, Ashley (Mara), over the course of seven hours. Brian is a new father on the verge of being imprisoned for a horrific rape when he breaks free from the cell where he is awaiting sentencing and murders a judge, a court reporter and a guard before going on the lam. He encounters Ashley, a young mother whose life has been derailed by meth, and takes her hostage, seeking refuge in her apartment.

The film, directed with verve and tension by Jerry Jameson, is at its best when focusing on Brian, panicked and intense, and Ashley, wan and hardened by life, and the common ground they share. The surrounding police hullabaloo is a poor procedural (including a subdued Michael K. Williams as the detective leading the manhunt).

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When Ashley reads to Brian from “The Purpose Driven Life,” the self-help book by famed Christian minister Rick Warren, a key moment in the true story almost feels like a marketing message for a bestseller. And though the film ends with a whimper instead of a bang, Oyelowo and Mara’s riveting, embodied performances rise above the material.

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“Captive.”

MPAA rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving violence, substance abuse.

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Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.

Playing: AMC Burbank 16; AMC Century City 15; Pacific’s Grove Stadium 14.

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