There are chilling matters afoot in The Captive, a film about child abduction, pornography and voyeurism.
This is mega-creepy material from Atom Egoyan and it should keep a viewer on the edge of his or her emotional seat, but it really doesn't work. The movie, which feels unfinished, is marred by dubious storytelling; overall, this is a plodding police procedural. The odd inspired bit gets buried in mundane (and weirdly impenetrable) sequences, unlikely plot turns and disorienting time shifts.
It's as if a viewer is being kept at arm's length on purpose.
Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos are the movie's strengths, here playing Matthew and Tina, a married couple living in snowy Niagara Falls. They have a young daughter named Cassandra; on a perfectly ordinary winter day, she vanishes. The child has disappeared without a trace, and police prepare the family for the worst.
Scott Speedman and Rosario Dawson are the investigating detectives. Speedman's character is suspicious of Matthew and attempts to goad him into confessing to his own daughter's disappearance.
Nothing is resolved. Matthew and Tina separate over the strain of what has happened.
Eight years pass. In the course of their work, which involves stemming the tide of child pornography, the detectives have found evidence that Cassandra might still be alive. Meanwhile, in increasingly surreal moments, Tina finds objects belonging to her daughter in the hotel rooms where she works as a chambermaid. We have early on met the villain of the piece (Kevin Durand) so no spoiler alerts here, but his twisted interests turn out to be as much about suffering as they are about sex.
The third act of the movie is completely disconcerting. Abductions, reunions and resolutions are available, all of them clumsy and bizarre. As for the willing suspension of disbelief, you'll need a crane for that job, and probably a Liebherr at that.
Technically, The Captive seems — again — oddly unfinished. The movie meanders along, rarely making sense, and the action grinds to a halt every time the camera is not on Ryan Reynolds or Mireille Enos.
Another recent Egoyan movie, Devil's Knot, had the same unfinished quality, as if the filmmaker had not had enough time to get the picture done to his satisfaction.
Or ours. It's a mystery.