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Cannes Critics Flee Atom Egoyan's "The Captive"

Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire May 16, 2014 at 10:47AM

Although it has a few defenders, most see the movie about the search for Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos' kidnapped daughter as further proof of Egoyan's downward slide.
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Ryan Reynolds in Atom Egoyan's "The Captive"
Ryan Reynolds in Atom Egoyan's "The Captive"

After pelting "Grace of Monaco" with brickbats and lavishing praise on "Mr. Turner," critics got out their sledgehammers for Atom Egoyan's "The Captive," which stars Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos as the grieving parents of a kidnapped daughter, and Scott Speedman and Rosario Dawson as the detectives who spend years looking for the man who took her. Many likened it negatively to last year's "Prisoners," but the harshest comparisons were to Egoyan's movies, casting "The Captive" as the latest evidence of the precipitous downward slide evidenced by "Devil's Knot," which opened in theaters last week to resoundingly negative reviews. "The Captive" (whose French title is "Captives," in order to distinguish it from Chantal Akerman's "La Captive") has a few defenders, including distributor A24, who secured the film for stateside release. (A24 also released "Enemy," the latest from "Prisoners" director Denis Villenueve.) But by and large the criticism is scathing, and worse, disheartened, with many wondering if Egoyan will ever get his groove back.

Reviews of "The Captive"

Mike D'Angelo, the Dissolve

After seeing "The Captive" this morning, I’m now open to the idea that Atom Egoyan, whom I used to cite (back in the 1990s) as my favorite living filmmaker, should be put out to pasture. 

Jonathan Romney, Screen Daily

It's a sometimes perplexing mix, but perplexity is par for the course with the Canadian auteur, whose best work has always been about playing games with our perceptions and preconceptions. A bold variation on genre tropes, but it demands a certain leap of faith from viewers willing to enter into the playful and perverse spirit of the game.

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

Compared to some of Egoyan's more recent, glaringly manipulative efforts, this clean approach comes as something of a relief, if only because the result is a mediocre genre effort rather than a monumental failure. But the greater tragedy is that a filmmaker once considered a unique voice has ventured into the fog of familiarity. 

Alison Willmore, BuzzFeed

"The Captive" feels like an unintentional parody of those earlier Egoyan films, bringing back many of the same themes and tropes for a central idea that isn’t just silly, it’s offensive. 

Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

It looks worryingly as if Egoyan has taken a serious issue and burdened it to breaking point and beyond with his own indulgent, naive and exploitative fantasies. Three years ago, Cannes presented a film by Markus Schleinzer, "Michael," which showed that with sufficient clarity and courage, these unthinkably shocking ideas can work as cinema. Sadly, Egoyan's film is simply a tangled and conceited mess.

Robbie Collin, Telegraph

A shiveringly tense abduction thriller: half-opaque and bitingly cold like the surface of a frozen lake. This is Egoyan’s best film for a very long time.

Peter Labuza, Film Stage

Aggressively stupid when it's not downright illogical, it is hard to imagine a film less deserving for a competition slot at this year’s Cannes Film Festival -- a subpar "Law & Order" episode at best. 

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

The director renders an already bogus story more preposterous by lathering it in portentous solemnity; misguided loyalty to competition alumni is the only explanation for the film's presence in the Cannes lineup.

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

Egoyan's latest is truly, madly, deeply -un. Unbelievable. Unworthy of a main competition festival spot. And unlikely to find an audience of any sort once its leaves the festival confines.

Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos in Atom Egoyan's "The Captive"
Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos in Atom Egoyan's "The Captive"

Justin Chang, Variety

Attempting to meld his traditional preoccupations with guilt and bereavement, voyeuristic technology and achronological storytelling with a "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"-style procedural, Egoyan leaves a strong cast flailing to keep up with a contrived and fatally unconvincing drama that makes the recent "Prisoners" look like a masterpiece in retrospect.

Donald Clarke, Irish Times

For all the silliness and inappropriateness, the film does have enough forward momentum to keep boredom and irritation at bay. Egoyan has seen enough Hitchcock to know which cards to keep close to the chest and which to play early. This is, however, a bafflingly uneven picture that can’t seem to decide whether it wants to embrace pulp or engage with loftier matters. The search for the Atom Egoyan we used to know continues.

Drew McWeeny, HitFix

The film looks fine, and Egoyan's technical collaborators all seem to be doing everything that can to serve his vision. But the sad truth is that Egoyan's vision feels very small and very disconnected from anything true these days. 

Adam Woodward, Little White Lies

"Captives" is fascinating in its close focus on the mental scarring associated with this type of abuse, but it's also unbearably manipulative and heavy-handed. When the script eventually runs out of steam, Egoyan, in his rush to bring things to a neat, satisfactory conclusion, leaves too many loose ends and too many questions unanswered, and his film is consequently relegated to third-tier pulp thriller.

Zach Lewis, Sound on Sight

Following an increasing number of recent failings for the Canadian director, "The Captive" sets itself up for a return to the form of his heartfelt mid-90s melodrama "The Sweet Hereafter," but thanks to the exacerbated direction and faux-camp spirit, it evokes hardly any reaction other than groans and pity-guffaws.

John Blesdale, CineVue

Not exciting enough to be taken as straightforward thriller and not engaging enough for a dramatic character piece, Egoyan's "The Captive" is held back by its own lame script and a distinct lack of necessity.

This article is related to: Cannes Film Festival, Ryan Reynolds, Atom Egoyan, Rosario Dawson


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