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James Brown
James Brown

Captive State (2019) REPACK

Machine Gun Kelly sustained a hairline fracture on set toward the end of filming,[14][15] reportedly from repeated punches to the chest from an unnamed person playing a police officer.[16] The actor stated that when he complained to a crew member about the incident, he was told to "suck it up."[16]

Captive State (2019)

In a middling review for The A.V. Club, A.A. Dowd wrote "It's not unreasonable to expect something like excitement out of a story about freedom fighters plotting to take back the planet. Captive State does not clear that fairly low bar."[27] Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a negative review, describing it as "[v]isually murky, choppily edited and lacking both narrative clarity and well-defined characterizations,"[28] while the Los Angeles Times's Gary Goldstein was also critical of the film, writing: "In Captive State aliens have taken over the world (as they will), but it's the viewers stuck watching this messy, lugubrious sci-fi thriller who may feel like the ones being held captive."[22]

Still, alien activity has devastated much of the city, parts of which look bombed-out in typical dystopian-movie chic. Plus, newer communication and electronic technologies are now obsolete. (On the upside, print newspapers are back in vogue.)

Although it's complex and satisfying -- and not overly reliant on visual effects -- this alien invasion movie still feels somewhat dispassionate. Perhaps that's because it concentrates less on characters and more on its own big ideas. Co-written and directed by Rupert Wyatt, whose Rise of the Planet of the Apes was likewise clever, but also exciting and moving, Captive State opens awkwardly, with characters trading explanatory dialogue designed to fill viewers in on the miserable state of everything. Characters are mainly defined by what they believe in, not who they actually are, and, despite the great cast, it's difficult to get past any of it.

For this, and because it is a pretty good movie to boot, Captive State is a strong recommendation, a valiant addition to Damn Amsterdam's monthly movie short list, and a brilliant reminder that we don't need much to fall into a captive state - with or without off-planet invaders.

Captive State reminded me of the 2009 science-fiction film District 9. Both films use the premise of a long-established alien invasion as a metaphor on multiple political themes like a police state controlling the population, loss of privacy, terrorism, and one-sided political leaders. It's strange to categorize Captive State as a science-fiction film because it doesn't have much action, science-fiction violence, or even aliens. (The film is also scant on dialogue, visual effects, and deadly machinery.) Captive State is more about people and how the fight to survive. This primary focus makes the film more believable and relatable than most other science-fiction films.

There are interesting ideas swirling around Captive State, but without a strong central figure, they never get to develop. The movie flirts with issues of surveillance, resistance, and deportation, but these political topics never feel like anything more than window dressing. The closest Captive State comes to something substantive is in pointing how human beings are stronger together, but our bonds can also be exploited as a weakness. Unfortunately, the film is too focused on its massive conflict and weak reveals to make much of a statement.

"Captive State" tries to do that as a surveillance state thriller, but it fails on several levels. For one thing, this is the kind of premise that by its very nature encourages audiences to focus on a political message. Here that requires random thriller material sprinkled throughout the plot, but the characters being moved around the narrative chessboard fall flat. They seem less like agents driving a story than slaves to their respective character arcs, and though they are performed with gusto the actors are ill-served by clunky dialogue. There is a humorlessness to the script, a lack of wit or substance, with fountains of blatant exposition and an unremittingly bleak and somber tone.

Finally the politics are muddled. There is talk of deportations and alien civilizations, of one side's terrorists being another side's freedom fighters, of resource exploitation as a motive for imperialism, but these themes are never developed. "Captive State" one is too scattered to have a clear message: it hints at interesting ideas about rebellion, imperialism, the presence of a surveillance state, but it never has anything to say about them. Instead we are given a giant Orwellian straw man, the type of state that very few members of the film's audience would ever dream of openly supporting. Effective social commentary needs to have bite, and this film is toothless.

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