"Captive State" Review

Updated on May 26, 2019
Logan Daniel Williamson profile image

Part-time Film Critic | Graduate Student at Columbia University


Captive State shoots for the fences, and I credit it with making efficient use of a low budget and bringing some imaginative elements to the table. It is an indie film, so it doesn't have the editorial checks and balances that come with having a staff at a major movie studio.

Captive State is far from being a bad film, and I found myself thinking about it long after the credits. But that certainly does not mean that it doesn't come with its fair share of caveats.

One of the main problems that I have with this film is the structure. For the majority of the movie, I found that it had a lot of fits and starts that made it feel sort of rocky and uneven. Often, it had me scratching my head wondering what the heck was going on. In the last five minutes, the movie explains everything in an almost indecipherable way that still kept me guessing. I question how much sense the film made to begin with. But, I give it some latitude to be mysterious, since I like at least some breathing room for subjective interpretation.

It's worth mentioning that there is one plot reveal at the end that any average-intelligence viewer could see coming from a mile away. In fact, I thought it was implied at the beginning of the film and did not realize the movie was trying to make it this jaw-dropping reveal. Clearly, there are smoking guns that give this away. It was just not a good set-up, in my opinion.

Despite this one thing, for the rest of the movie, I admittedly struggled to keep up with. However, now that I know what I know from the ending and have pieced together the other elements of the story into a relatively coherent narrative, I think I will need to revisit this film.

Certainly, I was engrossed throughout my viewing experience, but that was mostly because I was waiting for something to happen. The film is very anticlimactic, so do not expect an armed conflict with these extra-terrestrial creatures to break out. For the entire movie, I thought it was leading up to some siege of epic proportions that would annihilate the alien race, but that is not what the movie is about.

The people in this movie are imperiled under the rule of and have succumbed to the will of the aliens, acting as participants in the new world order set by the aliens. It is a frightening scenario that describes the effect of dictators and world leaders on people to blindly follow without questioning. It is a little campy with its political themes, but I found that is, more often than not, a feature and not a bug. I quite enjoyed the social commentary it was making.

Frankly, I wish more movies had the plethora of ideas that this one does. I like it when movies are ambitious, even if there are some misfires along the way. I'll point out a crucial one that bothered me with this film after I left the theater.

There are characters in this movie that are crucial to the final sequence of the plot, but are reduced to minor characters in the film with only one or two appearances. There are also key situations that matter in the plot that are of no longer than a mere blip on the screen. If the movie had explored more and dug a little deeper on character and narrative development, it would've gone from good to great. It could have been a little more thoughtful in its character studies, and in layering the narrative to bring about a more fully realized ending.

All in all, the storytelling is inert and slow, and the plot is too convoluted to rope in most viewers. I give it a relatively high score because it kept me interested, and it put a sort of twist on common topics that is quite an experiment in thought.

Rating: 6/10

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    © 2019 Logan Daniel Williamson


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