Captive State has an interesting premise that it never builds into anything past an okay SYFY channel movie.
Imagine a world where aliens have invaded Earth and instead of wiping us all off the planet in some huge planet destroying war they instead force humanity into subservience. A world where for the most part humanity keeps on acting as it always has except instead of terribly corrupt rich in charge of the course of human history, aliens are that top telling the corrupt rich what to tell us. Sounds like it could be an interesting setting to explore a story worth telling right?
Well… Captive State doesn’t really find that in the nearly two hour runtime.
When I try to think of this movie, it’s hard to not feel like it’s a seen there done that run by the numbers “thriller”. I hope you read that as me giving you air quotes, because at least for me thrillers tend to be stories that you don’t see where things go and you are left on the edge of your seat the whole time with a twist that blows your mind! Yeah, this one just doesn’t do that. It’s not necessarily the worst but it’s definitely not anything to write home about.
So what are you getting when you to go into this movie? I’d say it’s a SYFY channel movie with a slightly bigger budget and a few recognizable actors. But the quality and depth of the story at play is very paint by numbers. I was hoping that at least there would be something interesting to sink into as directory Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was an excellent start to one of the best sci-fi trilogies this century. Well we didn’t get anything like that with this one. This is another movie that is giving you the broadest of strokes at poor people get screwed over by the elites of the world. Yeah we all know that, now give me something fresh about that concept.
Storywise the problem is the focus is really all over the place. The over plot is meant to be focused on a young man named Gabriel just trying to survive in an alien run Chicago. Which I believed as well until I’d say about a quarter to a third of the way through his screen time disappears and now the plot is focused on a how are a group of revolutionaries going to fight back against the alien man?! Which wouldn’t have been a problem to me IF by the end of the movie they didn’t go back to this Gabriel who the entire movie just looks lost to what is going on, kind of like you or me trying to make sense of the thread lines of this story.
There’s a line towards the end of the movie that just nails it home what this movie was meant to be about but it sure didn’t feel like it. I barely knew this Gabriel other than he really wanted to leave Chicago and make things like they used to be. Which I don’t know what that was, because well he was a little kid before the aliens arrived and he sure can’t go back to childhood sooooo? It really is too bad we just didn’t focus on the revolutionaries more. There were some interesting characters there, or maybe have Gabriel get drawn into this conspiracy thriller to a higher degree.
Anyways moving away from the plot, the acting here is uuuuh alright? I don’t think anyone is giving a performance that you just have to see. This includes the great John Goodman, (10 Cloverfield Lane is still my favorite of his) who’s character is written so reserved to add to some twisty twists later on. Like I mentioned think SYFY movie quality. Not great, not bad, just kind of passable.
Finally I suppose talking about the effects and look of the movie would be a great idea. Well this one definitely has that SYFY-esque visuals. I can deal with that if the movie is strong, but it lacks anything else to let you give that a pass. The one thing I did enjoy about what I was looking at was some good old shots of my home city of Chicago. I can’t get enough of seeing Chicago on film just because of the varied and interesting architecture. For those who don’t have that connection to the real world setting I can’t imagine this making the movie anymore interesting for you, but it did make this a little more enjoyable for me. At the end though, I can’t say this is a movie worth watching in theaters. At very best, it’s something to catch on TV hopefully the SYFY channel because I can’t imagine any other audience finding anything to take from this movie.