What made Selma such a special piece of cinema – aside from the remarkable acting, of course – was the simplicity of it all. Rather than be a comprehensive biopic, a mere snippet of Martin Luther King’s life was used as a means of portraying everything he stood for. Though such an approach is generally more favourable, in David Oyelowo’s latest endeavour, Captive, it’s the other way around: what this film needs is a more complete back-story of the protagonist, to try to form a connection between the viewer and the character, rather than introduce us to him as the brutal sociopath he went on to become.
Based entirely on real events, Oyelowo plays Brian Nichols, who was sent to prison for a crime he defiantly denied. Upon entering into a lengthy sentence, he attacked the prison guard and escaped – shooting the judge assigned to his case, as well as three other casualties, before he stumbled across meth addict, and single mother, Ashley Smith (Kate Mara). Needing a place to hide from Detective John Chestnut (Michael Kenneth Williams), who is heading up the extensive manhunt for the fugitive, Ashley is kept hostage in her own home – desperately hoping not to become the fifth victim.
It’s increasingly challenging to find any semblance of sympathy for Brian Nichols in this title, and while not always an issue, Jerry Jameson’s endeavour is evidently vying to evoke such an emotion from the viewer. What does help, however, is having such a personable, tender actor in Oyelowo take on the lead; but in this instance, it may just be a role more appropriate for Williams, who has a more unhinged unpredictability about his demeanour. Though always wanting actors to step out of their comfort zone and attempt a different kind of character, perhaps in this instance the film will have benefited if they’d performed in the opposite roles.
It may have also been of benefit to have had a more cinematic filmmaker on board – as Jameson’s career is one that has predominantly been on the smaller screen, and in this instance, you can certainly tell. But, oddly, there’s something almost uplifting about this title, though it does feel contrived in parts, as it becomes a struggle to get a sense for any hope given the tragic and horrific incidents that took place.