Captivity Review

"There's a club if you'd like to go, you could meet somebody who really loves you!" So sang Morrissey on The Smiths' droning indie classic How Soon Is Now? Unfortunately, Jennifer (Elisha Cuthbert) is a woman stuck in that world. Nightclubs beckon and leaving a glamourous photo shoot, she heads downtown for a date but is unaware that someone is watching her very closely. "But you go and you stand on your own and leave on your own and you go home and you cry and you want to die!" Oddly enough, that's almost what happens, proving that Morrissey, as well as being something of an icon for lonely teenage boys and girls in the mid-eighties, was writing the plot lines for awful horror movies produced by a thousand or so Russians twenty years on. Perhaps they could adapt Girlfriend In A Coma next or Meat Is Murder? Vicar In A Tutu?

Accompanied only by her little toy dog, Jennifer's date doesn't show up. She orders a martini for herself and a bottle of still water in a bowl for her dog but she and the waitress are distracted and don't notice someone slip a small vial of a drug into her drink. Jennifer never gets a chance to leave on her own (nor go home, cry and so on) as someone scoops her and dog up and helps her out of the nightclub. Waking up on a strange bed, she hears the wash of waves on a beach, feels the wind in her hair and looks out over a beautiful blue ocean. But the scene disappears, the lights go off and all she can feel now is the rusting metal of a sprung bed and the undecorated brickwork of the small room in which she's kept. Someone is keeping her here and that someone, from all the interviews that she has given on television and in the glossy magazines, knows everything about her, from her likes to what terrifies her. And as they enter Jennifer's prison with a blender and a bowl of blood, entrails and eyeballs, they're going to make sure that she's well-fed...for whatever they have in mind for her!

There are young women currently being held captive in makeshift prisons across the world who, in moments of silence, when the Barbie panties-wearing crazy man who dances around their cell leaves them to tend to the corpse of his mother, would be able to tell you how Captivity is going to play out. And that's not because of any knowledge gained from being in the same situation as Jennifer finds herself. In fact, there are lost tribes deep in the jungles of the Borneo who might not ever have seen a moving picture and who worship Prince Philip as a god but who could, were they shown the first half-hour of Captivity, tell you in a language consisting of clicks and whistles that, "Nah...see that man in the cell next door...he's in on it!" And that man is Gary (Daniel Gillies).

Jennifer isn't alone for very long. After one short spell of torture, she sees a light through the wall of her room and peering into it, sees someone looking back at here. Someone who is as terrified as she is. Together, they scrape the black paint off the glass - this being something that a psychopath either really ought to have dealt with more than just painting it over or who has left it intact for a reason - and begin talking about the crazy man upstairs in spite of the cameras, microphones and peepholes that riddle her cell. In time, Jennifer learns to fill her day. In between the bouts of torture that she must endure - drinking a blood'n'guts'n'eyeball cocktail, picking off a fake scar that has been glued to her cheek and shooting her own dog - she talks to Gary next door. Then a package arrives for her containing a little black dress and in a quite preposterous turn of events, has sex with him. Which is just about the only surprising thing in Captivity as contrary to what I had always believed, keeping a woman prisoner, forcing her to drink blood and showing her home movies of previous captives being tortured to death is entirely conducive to her wanting to have sex with her captor. And all these years, I thought that being nice to women was the thing to do!

By that point in the film, so awful and so very predictable had Captivity become that I half expected my DVD player to spit out the disc in disgust. Not that it's done that sort of thing before, more that the shock of Captivity might have drawn out some intelligence from the scattering of circuits. You could, of course, say that I've given something away here. You might even be considering ticking me off for spoiling your enjoyment of the film but given that you have managed to (a) read this page to this point, (b) connect to the Internet via a computer and (c) somehow make it this far in life without being crushed underneath a vending machine, falling into a combine harvester or confusng Domestos with a refreshing soft drink, I'm crediting you with some intelligence and believe that, like me, you'll actually work out the ending to this film no more than half an hour in.

There are worse films but there are few major releases so badly acted and directed with such little interest shown in it that I half-expect Captivity to have been planned as a means to launder a vast amount of money that its producers could well have done without prior to Russian Inland Revenue taking too keen an interest in them. However, sitting at home, what the viewers will have their eye on is misogyny, the gore, which is not as strong as has the publicity would suggest, and that so little of makes any sense. Like the cherry on a turd-shaped cake, the film reaches a crescendo with two cops appearing out of nowhere and, in the middle of a murder investigation, sitting down in the killer's front room to watch a ball game on television. By chance, they turn over and see a CCTV image of Jennifer in her cell prompting a final, bloody showdown. And the whole point of it seems to be that Jennifer, by being a successful model, is as imprisoned by the fashion industry as she is in her cell. However, it's one thing to make that point with satire and quite another to spin out a story like the one here. No matter how bad one's experience in the fashion industry might be, I doubt if any struggling model would take a holiday in a basement cell, being tied to a rusty bed and drinking liquidised eyeballs to learn something about real life.


A large portion of the running time of Captivity, as you might expect of a film set in a torture chamber, takes place in the dark. By no means does the DVD do the film a disservice but it's only in few well-constructed shots that you can see how well this film is presented. Too often Joffé resorts to quick cuts, close-ups of video screens and the psychopath's heavy frame stumbling around in the dark but when he chooses not to try and impress so much, the DVD can look good. Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between, leaving this looking as dark and as dingy as the cell in which Jennifer spends most of her time in the movie although the DVD does all this without any noticeable faults in the print and without any problems in the encoding of the picture.

The DVD comes with a choice of DD5.1 and DD2.0 Stereo with the former sounding slightly more crisp than the latter, due in part to the use of the front and rear channels giving the soundtrack much more space. Captivity does sound good during its moments of torture but rather dull elsewhere with its makers forgetting that the tension of the piece would have benefited from good sound design throughout the film not only accompanying the bloodshed.


Making Of (11m26s): "It's not a typical's something very important!" Had Cecil B DeMille said that about The Ten Commandments or Orson Welles about Citizen Kane, I might have believed him but when one of the one-hundred-and-fourteen Russians who have a producing credit on this film says it about Captivity, my eyebrows are raised so far that I can feel my skin cracking. This is a producer-heavy feature that only offers a little of Roland Joffe and the cast and which, with its few behind-the-scenes shots, doesn't actually reveal very much about the making of Captivity as much as the identity of those who financed it. Odd, though, that they should be so ready to appear on screen as had I been so foolish with my money, I'd have kept quiet about it.

Interview With Elisha Cuthbert (7m32s): Wearing a hairstyle that suggests she was on the losing end of a bet, Cuthbert answers questions that appear, without a nodding Alan Yentob, via onscreen captions. "Why did you star in this shit?" is, oddly, not one of them but, instead, she talks about her part in this horror movie, to working with Roland Joffe and her co-stars and, with such a stink of cheese about it that I had to check if I'd left the Camembert on top of the oil heater again, "On the sense of captivity while shooting?"

Deleted Scenes & Alternate Endings: Yes, not one alternate ending but two! How do you say indecisive in Russian? The first of these suggests that a year after the events of the film, a copycat killer began torturing and murdering those they'd kidnapped - can you guess who that might be? - while the second shows Jennifer forgetting about the events of the film rather sooner than one might think possible. There are also seven Deleted Scenes, which feature Jennifer being attacked by a vulture and, later, being served it in a bowl, far too much of Jennifer and Gary talking and some footage of the detectives trying to piece together what little clues they have. What this means is the lead female detective paying homage to Se7en by writing TS Eliot and Wasteland on a whiteboard in a hopeless attempt to add depth to the film. But given that the likely audience for this film will no more have heard of The Wasteland than be able to recite it, there's no good reason why this scene and the others here should have remained in the film.

Finally, there are a couple of Trailers, one for the UK (2m10s) and another for the US (1m44s).

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