On paper this sinister thriller could almost be a horror movie: The Captive deals with much of the same material as a torture porn shocker (snuff movies, etc) but it does so with Hitchcockian restraint, making the unseen far more terrifying than the seen. There’s still a flair for high drama, however: we’re shown the blissfully happy lives of Matthew (Reynolds), Tina (Mireile Enos) and their daughter Cass before she’s cruelly snatched by a kidnapper.
The sense of doom is at fever pitch precisely because we know this is going to happen. The narrative jumps around from past to present, showing us the miserable parents and older Cass (Alexia Fast) before flashing back to various points in time. This is almost as frustrating as it is effective, since trying to work out the time period can take up a bit too much of your head space. But it’s a stylistic flourish that reflects the film’s themes: this is all about piecing clues together – something the audience is encouraged to do, and something special detectives Nicole (Rosario Dawson) and Jeffrey (Scott Speedman) devote their lives to.
With Dawson and Speedman on board, this becomes a nifty four-hander that grows particularly explosive when both pairs are in the room together. Reynolds underplays it nicely as the dejected, brow-beaten father with a glint of determination still flickering in his eye. Meanwhile Dawson shows her usual knack for picking out ballsy roles and handling them with quiet aplomb. Director Atom Egoyan creates more than enough tension to keep your eyes fixed to the screen, no mean feat given the oft-restless Cannes audience.
The Captive is one of the more commercial offerings from director Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter), who’s been nominated for the Palme d’Or three times before. Will he finally win with this? Too early to say - but he’s certainly still in the race.