“Captive State” has a hugely promising premise but is a giant swing-and-miss when it comes to execution.
When I first read the synopsis for this film, I was excited. Taking place ten years after an alien invasion toppled all governments and installed a worldwide oligarchy of alien “legislators,” the film could have been a truly interesting exercise in world-building. Most movies involving malevolent alien overlords focus on stopping the aliens from ever taking over in the first place, but “Captive State” chooses instead to jump right into a world where the aliens have not only won but are accepted and even loved by many. This brave and unconventional setting provided the film with the chance to do what not many have done before: to show the classic “War of the Worlds” story that we’ve been telling for decades from the other end of the conflict, ten years down the road. But what the film delivers instead is nothing short of disappointing.
The majority of the film is procedural. Instead of taking the time to focus on individual characters and the emotions they feel as a result of living under what amounts to a totalitarian alien regime, the movie chooses to spend most of its time showing in meticulous detail the preparations for an assassination/terror attack designed to spark a revolution and inspire humans around the world to rise up against the alien leaders they’d come to accept. And when I say meticulous detail, I mean painfully meticulous.
A good two-thirds to half of the film is taken up by an extended sequence involving the secret chain of communication the resistance uses to coordinate their attack. The camera takes bored audiences from carrier pigeon to encoded newspaper ad, to a special song played on the radio, to dog barks. The sequence is not only boring, but frustrating as well, because very little of it actually makes sense. While watching it, one gets the impression the writers were quite pleased with themselves for creating such a complex communication system. They definitely shouldn’t have been. It was absolutely unnecessary to include in the film, and only served to bore and confuse me.
Even outside the excruciatingly long procedural scenes, the film had no real character development. Everyone on screen, including the main characters, felt emotionless, faceless and dull. I felt more attached to the carrier pigeon than I did to any of the characters, and in a film with such potential for emotion, that’s a real shame. Not even John Goodman could save this film, and as much as I love him, his character was just as uninteresting as the rest. Honestly, I thought the battle of Chicago scene in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” did a better job with the alien invasion after-the-fact premise than “Captive State” did, and that’s really saying something.
“Captive State” commits two of the cardinal sins of filmmaking. It allows human emotion to take a backseat to plot, and it’s downright boring. Director Rupert Wyatt wasted a great idea on this film. He took the story in completely the wrong direction, and turned what could have been an emotional tale into a movie about watching mail being sent via pigeon. Do not watch this film. You’ll regret wasting your time and money if you do.