Captive State
Universal // PG-13 // $34.98 // June 11, 2019
Review by William Harrison | posted August 20, 2019
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The premise of Captive State is intriguing: Aliens invade Earth and take over complete governmental control, placing the populace under the unyielding rule of "Legislators." Ten years after the invasion, resistance fighters look to take back control from the invaders as the masses acquiesce to their demands. The movie is intriguing, too, to a degree, but suffers from uneven pacing, blunt political ideology and soulless characters. A rival to District 9 this is not, but Rupert Wyatt's (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) science-fiction drama is still worth renting even though it is ultimately a disappointment.

The opening minutes of Captive State caught my attention, promising a slick, thought-provoking thriller that never quite materialized. In 2019 Chicago, martial law is in effect as the Drummond family races in their car past checkpoints to flee the city. Soon trapped in a tunnel, the family comes face to face with the invading aliens, who vaporize the parents, leaving sons Gabriel and Rafe alive in the backseat. A decade later, Gabriel (Ashton Sanders) secretly meets with Rafe (Jonathan Majors), now the leader of the resistance. Rafe explains that the resistance group Phoenix is planning to attack the Legislators at the upcoming Unity Rally at Soldier Field. Gabriel is watched by Chicago Police Commander William Mulligan (John Goodman), the former law-enforcement partner of Gabriel's father who is somewhat sympathetic to the resistance group he knows has not been extinguished. The rally attack initially seems successful, but the invaders bring in additional hunters to extinguish the resistance, sending Gabriel and Rafe underground.

I was not shocked when Captive State revealed its hand during the climax, as the destiny of certain characters is heavily forecasted. One of the biggest problems here, though, is that it is hard to care about these two-dimensional characters. The aliens' appearance is revealed early on (pulsing, sharp, menacing prickly elegance) and then they are largely kept at arm's length, as this low-key insurrection film focuses more on Gabriel's quest to fight for his brethren. That is all well and good, but I just did not care what happened to Gabriel, Rafe or Commander Mulligan, because Captive State never gave me a reason to. The film flirts with political intrigue but ultimately makes blunt observations about group mentality and abandoning one's ideology. There are some nifty visuals in this lower-budget film, but the stop-start pacing and unfocused narrative make the 109 minutes drag. Captive State is an ambitious film with some hot-button ideas that does not quite stick its landing.



This $25-million picture is quite slickly shot, and the 2.39:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer complements the gritty dystopian visuals with excellent fine-object detail, abundant texture in fabrics and locations, and crystal-clear wide shots. Colors are muted but nicely saturated, the film looks excellent in motion, and black levels are nicely resolved. Noise is minimal in the digitally sourced image, and I noticed no edge enhancement.


The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack supports the otherworldly sounds of Captive State with excellent element separation, strong LFE support and frequent sound pans of dialogue and effects. The LFE is called upon to menace viewers and action effects ricochet about the surrounds. A French 5.1 DTS mix is included, as are English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.


This single-disc release includes an HD digital copy. The Blu-ray is packed in a standard case that is wrapped in a slipcover. Extras include a Commentary Director/Writer/Co-Producer Rupert Wyatt and Producer David Crockett; Igniting a War (5:20/HD), about the film's inspirations; and Building the World of Captive State (5:10/HD).


The unfocused narrative and two-dimensional characters lessen the impact of Captive State and kill its replay value, but this science-fiction drama about a world governed by alien invaders offers enough intrigue to rent. Rent It.

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