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Captive State (2019) - Movie Review

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Captive State (2019)

Like the trojan horse at the heart of its central allusion, Captive State isn’t what it initially appears to be. Perhaps due to its dour subject matter, its refusal to kowtow to mass appeal, or maybe even because Focus Features didn’t truly know what to do with it, the film is advertised as a mass market, put-butts-in-the-seats alien invasion flick. But don’t fall for that. Yes, there are aliens, and yes, they invade the Earth. But Captive State is so much smarter than that.

With a serpentine plot featuring a host of duplicitous characters who force us to reconcile an abundance of moral dilemmas, Captive State is a thinking man’s sci-fi puzzle that leads us on a harrowing journey into a dystopian landscape set not too far into the future.

"in a world of sequels, prequels, remakes, and mass consumed pablum, we need filmmakers who are willing to roll the dice and break the rules of tradition. And Wyatt comes up big"


The year is 2027, the city is Chicago nine years post-contact with a dominating alien force we’ve come to call The Legislators. The aliens have achieved unconditional Earth supremacy and have relegated the planet’s inhabitants to “closed zones” and roles that best suit the invaders’ cruel intentions; things like a proletariat police force and government puppet officials who maintain strict control over the population. The city is a dingy, dirty husk of its former self with danger lurking above from the swarms of observation drones that track every citizen’s move.

Why they are here and what they want is eventually revealed, but until then, all we know is that they remain deep beneath the Earth’s surface with occasional “soldiers” who emerge when situations against their purpose arise. We never really get a good look at the creatures as they mostly wear battle armor while on the surface, but occasional glances reveal some kind of giant cockroach-like critters that, when angry, swell with millions of spiny protrusions the can zap a human dead in a second. Oh, and they aren’t very nice.

But as with any oppressive regime, there are freedom fighters - in this case humans - who work at-large throughout the community striking back at The Legislators at every opportunity. Gabriel (Ashton Sanders, Moonlight) is one of those, as is his brother Rafe (Jonathan Majors, White Boy Rick). Members of the insurgency communicate amongst themselves via newspaper wanted ads, pay telephones, and certain songs played over the radio. See, in this post-invasion world, cell phones, digital communication, a free press, and rights of assembly are the enemy. Sound familiar?

Not surprisingly, John Goodman is excellent in his role as inner-city Police Detective Mulligan who we eventually learn is working inside the extraterrestrial government and is trying to track down the mysterious entity known as “Phoenix” that is leading a rumored rebellion against the alien government. The hair stands up on the back of our necks knowing something big is about to happen. And we remain glued to the screen as the danger ratchets up with every plot turn.

The magic of Captive State, and the thing that sets it apart from most in the genre, lies within the way director/co-writer Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) unfolds his story. There are stretches – especially in the film’s first hour or so – where we're not really sure what in the hell is going on. It is one of those films that becomes all the more enthralling with the less you know. We pick out little bits and pieces of revealing information and then plug them back in as the plot unfolds.Captive State (2019)

Captive State has a lot of interesting things to say about a lot of things, but is ultimately about fighting for the things we believe in and neutralizing those who oppress. The whip-smart script from Wyatt and Erica Beeney (The Battle of Shaker Heights) is the star of the show as is the remarkable cinematography from Alex Disenhof who gives the film a dark, dingy look and feel that plays nicely into the bombed out setting. You’ll want to take a shower after watching.

Because of its abandonment of genre convention, the contentious message about defiance in the face of oppression, and its big middle finger pointed directly at people and things going on in the real world today, this one won’t be well received by everybody. But in a world of sequels, prequels, remakes, and mass-consumed pablum, we need filmmakers who are willing to roll the dice and break the rules of tradition. Wyatt does just that and comes up big with a film that feels like a demented cross between The Handmaid’s Tale, Arrival, and War of the Worlds. Sadly, it will probably come and go without much notice, but mark my words, this one will undoubtedly find a home in the world of cult appreciation.

4/5 stars

Captive State (2019)

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief language and drug material.
Runtime:
109 mins
Director
: Rupert Wyatt
Writer:
Erica Beeney, Rupert Wyatt
Cast:
John Goodman, Ashton Sanders, Jonathan Majors
Genre
: Sci-fi
Tagline:
This is no longer our planet.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You have a choice to make. Work for me or wind up like your father."
Theatrical Distributor:
Focus Features
Official Site: http://www.focusfeatures.com/captivestate
Release Date:
March 15, 2019
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: Set in a Chicago neighborhood nearly a decade after an occupation by an extra-terrestrial force, Captive State explores the lives on both sides of the conflict - the collaborators and dissidents.

Captive State (2019)

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Captive State (2019)

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