“That’s a bunch of church crap,” says escaped murderer Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo) to widowed mother Ashley Smith (Kate Mara) during a scene in the new movie “Captive.”
While Nichols is holding her hostage, Smith tries to make conversation with him to avoid getting killed, so she brings up the topics of faith and God. Nichols, however, doesn’t want to hear it because he notes his father went to church every Sunday, but was a mean drunk the rest of the time. In his eyes, that kind of talk is nothing but a sign of hypocrisy.
Smith can relate because she’s been a hypocrite as well, having promised God that she would give up her meth habit, yet always falling back into drug abuse. They both understand the shallowness of professing one thing with your mouth, but another with your actions. That’s why the actual moments of redemption in “Captive” are so profound, because they’re grounded in struggle, humility and hard choices.
“Captive” is a taut and compelling drama based on the true story of Nichols’ escape from an Atlanta courthouse in 2005, his murder of four people, his taking widow and meth addict Ashley Smith hostage, and how the incident came to a peaceful, life-transforming end through the experience of God’s grace.
While some might brand “Captive” a Christian movie, screenwriter Brian Bird and director Jerry Jameson smartly resist making that aspect of the story heavy-handed. God is used sparingly, subtly and organically in the script so you’re never taken out of the story to feel like you’re being preached at. The moments of redemption are found by reading between the lines, so to speak, making this a film that should have a wide appeal far beyond Christian audiences.
First and foremost, this is a story about three-dimensional human beings, not one-note characters. It grabs your attention from the get-go by jumping right into the action, then holds you captive (pun intended) with the tense interplay between Nichols and Smith. The dynamic between Oyelowo and Mara serves as “Captive’s” linchpin, and they do a remarkable job finding both the desperation and hope in each of their characters.
Mara’s performance in particular should appeal to people looking for a movie with a strong female character because she conveys an undercurrent of courage, determination, intelligence and compassion despite being fearful of what Nichols will do to her. And Oyelowo takes a character who could be written off simply as evil and imbues him with the sliver of humanity and self-awareness necessary to make him a fully-formed person.
If you’re going to the movies this weekend, I believe you’ll be captivated by “Captive.”