"The Sweet Hereafter" isn't the only good film on Canadian writer-director Atom Egoyan's resume. But it has been too long since Egoyan, a Cannes Film Festival favorite, asserted his talent in strong dramatic fashion.
We'll have to wait a while longer. 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.
"The Captive" lays out a preposterous and finally galling child abduction thriller set under heavy, foreboding grey skies on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Written with David Fraser, Egoyan's film begins in the present, with a teenaged girl being held captive, for several years, we learn, by one of those horrible, high-toned sexual predators who listens to opera. Mozart's "The Magic Flute" gets an exhausting, dark-fairy-tale workout here in metaphoric terms; Egoyan originally titled his picture "Queen of the Night."
The slithery kidnapper portrayed as a second-rate caricature by Kevin Durand uses his kidnap victim to lure other, younger girls online and into the clutches of an extensive child pornography ring involving what appears to be a significant percentage of Ontario. "The Captive" jumps between the present and eight years earlier, when nine-year-old Cassandra was taken while her father, played by Ryan Reynolds, stopped into a truck stop for pie.
As in the recent film "Prisoners," which was a bloodthristy bit of goods but made with conviction and, in its first hour, some true suspense, "The Captive" relies on mutual frustration between grieving parents and earnest but thwarted police. The law is represented by Rosario Dawson as a child abduction and sexual assault specialist and Scott Speedman as Dawson's rage-fueled colleague and lover.
The past/present switchbacks add littlEgoyan has given us a miserably tarted-up variation on the average "Law & Order: SVU" episode. I would've happily seen either Mike Leigh's "Mr. Turner" and Abderrahmane Sissako's "Timbuktu," already screened, a second time than slog through "The Captive" a first.