Cinematic Releases: Captive State (2019) Reviewed

Rupert Wyatt first popped on my radar back in 2011 when he directed Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which kicked off the new Planet of the Apes trilogy. Matt Reeves went on to direct the second and third parts of that series, whereas Wyatt directed films such as The Gambler, which was well, just okay. With Captive State, he returns to the world of science fiction, this time grappling with invading aliens instead of super intelligent apes.

Originally slated for release last summer, Captive State attempts to distinguish itself from other standard alien invasion films. Generally, with films such as Independence Day, the attacking aliens cause all of humanity to put aside their differences and band together to fight their common enemy. Captive State puts a twist on that formula by showing the majority of humanity complying with the invading force and willingly becoming subservient to their domination. The top levels of human leadership have generally become leaders in name only, as they now bend to the will of the aliens, who have started mining earth for its natural resources.

The driving conflict behind Captive State is that while most of humanity has given in to essentially an alien dictatorship, there is a small group of people who have banded together in an effort to resist both the aliens and the humans who carry out their will. It's this aspect of the film that holds the most promise. Art has always been a reflection of the world surrounding it. Films, of course fall under that. With everything from blind devotion by the masses to labeling anyone who resists as a terrorist, Captive State is clearly making a statement on the current world landscape. This is an exciting idea as far as alien invasions film go, and obviously its strongest aspect. Unfortunately, there are plenty of weak ones that keep it from rising to its fullest potential.

Captive State's largest flaws reside in its execution. While it may be written like other films in the genre, it sure as hell looks like them. The cinematography is bland, muddled, and just generally ugly. It's a shame considering the initial teaser trailers looked rather beautiful. It seems like they just took the best-looking shots of the film and put them in the marketing. An edgy new sci-fi should look gorgeous. I can't help but wonder how this film would have looked if someone like Roger Deakins or Bradford Young had done the cinematography. Instead, the film consists largely of various gray hues and shaky, incoherent camera movement.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this film for me is how this story unfolded. Its attempts to balance the ensemble cast, and especially the way information was passed among the characters got incredibly muddled. This kind of storytelling occurred throughout the film, and it made me question if the character interactions I was seeing made logical sense. Ironically, in addition to some of this confusing character interaction, I developed a pretty clear sense of where the story was leading pretty early on. In retrospect, it makes sense that the film ended the way that it did. I just wish that that the film was handled in such a way that I wouldn't have been able to predict its conclusion. On top of that, the fates of certain characters still did not make sense to me, and so Captive State overall just leaves me with more questions than answers. Sometimes, that's actually a good thing, however that is not the case here. I guess I'm more upset than anything else by the fact that this could have been an incredible film. Instead we're left with one that had some great ideas, but ended up being just okay.

-Derek Miranda