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Now showing in Hong Kong

Film review: The Captive – Atom Egoyan’s child abduction thriller is sadistic and exploitative

Director has made subtle, moving films about suffering, but this isn’t one. Nasty for the sake of it, this misguided work emotionally humiliates its characters in a B-movie plot more suited to TV

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 April, 2016, 7:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 April, 2016, 3:56pm

1/5 star

The Captive revels in its own nastiness and makes for a highly unpleasant watch. Filmmakers should not shy away from making films about difficult subjects like child abuse, but Atom Egoyan’s sole intent is to emotionally humiliate his characters. A by-the-numbers plot that’s more suited to a run-of-the-mill television drama fails to elevate matters above simple B-movie exploitation fare.

The story focuses on a girl abducted by a child-porn ring, and the effect it has on her parents and the two detectives working on the case. Cass (Alexia Fast) goes missing when she’s nine, and eight years later, two detectives track her down to a child-porn ring they are investigating. Dad Matthew (Ryan Reynolds) is suspected to be involved in her abduction, so he takes action to uncover the ring himself.

Child abduction is a horrifyingly real issue, so it’s irresponsible for Egoyan to simply use the subject matter as the foundation for a basic cop thriller that’s intended to provide some sadistic entertainment for his audience. The director evidently admires the edgy work of Michael Haneke, but The Captive lacks the psychological insights the Austrian director brings to his blighted characters.

Egoyan’s 1994 Exotica looked at the effects a child murder had on a community, using some of the flashback effects employed here. That film was subtle, interesting and moving – and only serves to make this misguided effort a bigger disappointment.

The Captive opens on April 14

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