Dir: Roland Joffe. US. 2007. 84 mins
The controversy surrounding the marketing of Captivity proves to be more interesting than the film itself. Banned American billboard images considered too intense for public display earned Captivity the kind of notoriety that publicity budgets cannot buy. Anyone seduced by the whiff of scandal is likely to leave underwhelmed by a perfunctory rehash of familiar genre cliches from the likes of Saw, My Little Eye and Psycho.
The latest entry on the seemingly endless conveyor belt of torture porn falls far short of heightened expectations but should still attract substantial hit and run theatrical business before attention inevitably strays to the next jolt of sensationalist mayhem whether that's Hostel: Part 11 or Saw 4. The film opens in the UK on June 22, ahead of a July 13 rollout in the US.
In common with recent Larry Cohen stories and screenplays like Phone Booth (2003) and Cellular (2004), Captivity attempts to wring the tension from an innocent individual placed in a situation of extreme jeopardy.
Seemingly the only supermodel to roam the world without an entourage, Jennifer (Cuthbert) is all on her own at a New York charity event when her drink is drugged and she is abducted. She awakens in the basement lair of a hooded boogey man who appears to have taken fashion tips from Darth Vader and based his decor on too many trips to Phantom Of The Opera. His torture chamber is illuminated with candles and strewn with discarded body parts and laboratory rats.
Having made her living as an object of desire, Jennifer discovers that she is to be objectified even more as her anonymous captor works through his golden rules of torment ('Isolate', 'Desire is the mother of invention' etc) as he watches her every move and starts to play twisted mind games with her. Then, she discovers that she is not alone: Gary (Gillies) is also being held captive in a neighbouring chamber.
Handicapped by some awful dialogue and an increasingly unconvincing story, Captivity's biggest problem is an approach that is all pay-off and no build up. Every single twist and torture is either abandoned or resolved before there is a chance to sustain any lasting suspense.
We learn so little about Jennifer that it is hard to feel anything beyond basic empathy for her plight and we are never pushed to the edge of our seats willing her on to escape and triumph. She is such a modern day equivalent of a Victorian damsel in distress that you almost expect her to be tied to the railways tracks and left to her fate before an advancing train.
Director Roland Joffe takes an uninspired stylistic approach that accents the voyeuristic aspect of the story and he also pumps up the gore with the kind of sick images that would not seem out of place in a video nasty from the 1980s. Tapes of previous victims include a woman's face being showered with acid; at one point Jennifer is force fed a smoothie blitzed together from human body part left-overs from the fridge.
The film's major plot twist really doesn't come as a big surprise and the subsequent complications teeter towards the ridiculous. The film's biggest shock comes from the fact that it was directed by industry veteran Joffe.
His career path from acclaimed work in British theatre and television to Palme d'Or win for The Mission and porn torture practitioner is as baffling as it is disheartening.
After Dark Films
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