Director Rupert Wyatt
Screenplay Erica Beeney, Wyatt
Starring John Goodman, Ashton Sanders, Jonathan Majors, Machine Gun Kelly, Vera Farmiga, Alan Ruck
In only the first few minutes of the film we see Rafe and his brother Gabriel Drummond lose both of their parents in front of them in an attempted getaway from alien invasion. Then within the next 10 minutes of Captive State we see an image of an older Rafe (Majors), presumably martyred, plastered in image form all throughout the remnants of Chicago. One can reasonably assume this martyr is still around, as its only been a few minutes and no one actually saw the older brother killed.
What we do see is his younger brother, played by Sanders going through life in the new paradigm, destroying remnants of the technology that citizens of earth used to rely upon. He’s under the watchful eye of Chicago Police Officer William Mulligan (Goodman), who himself is merely working for the new Legislators who have taken over the world.
The Legislators (i.e. the aliens) have reached an armistice with the leaders of Earth. In short, they made them surrender, give up their weapons and plant trackers in the survivors. The political strife of the planet is over, and humanity is completely unified in working for them in robbing the planet of its resources.
If this sounds like a depressing premise to start a film, you are correct. To top it off, the Chicago of the future is filled with darkness and gray. Sure, it might be winter, but damn it looks like a miserable existence.
The film has not one, but three main characters in Mulligan and the Drummond boys. Mulligan is trying to crack the code of Phoenix, which passes its signals through the newspaper classifieds. Newspapers have become prominent once more due to the lack of technology for humanity to use.
The characters all wander down three seemingly disparate paths, with the older two occasionally intersecting with Gabriel, but never with each other. Every action with the Drummond boys sets up a series of dominos that will begin to fall when the script requires.
Wyatt and co-writer spend so much time setting up the labyrinthian plot, we are allowed little time to invest in learning much about any particular character. The end result plays more sterile than it probably should. The surprise we’re expecting is more of an obligation than a relief.
There is a lot of acting talent on the screen. I am partial to Goodman and they do a good job with his character, to say the least. The rest of the principal characters could use just about 2 more scenes each to flesh out their personages. Not sure if anyone would want to spend the time, though, for this film.
The aliens of the film vary. We don’t really get too good of a look at any of the varieties (3 that I could discern). The Legislators come across as spindly blowfish. That their power doesn’t involve pin pricks is confusing. The lack of visibility is supposed to cause dread. It doesn’t.
Some of these aspects might appeal to someone for an early Tuesday night movie. It won’t make them want to forego bedtime. It’s the kind of film one picks up again early Wednesday if they need to finish it. Or Thursday. But definitely not Friday night.
(** out of *****)