review for Captivity on AllMovie

Captivity (2007)
by Derek Armstrong review

The haunted eyes of Elisha Cuthbert stared out from billboards for months in early 2007, as the controversy over Captivity's explicit ad campaign twice pushed back its release date. By July, when they settled on the trusty "open it on Friday the 13th" strategy, an inevitable curiosity had taken root: What was this movie all about? Was it an abusive relationship movie? Was it metaphorical imprisonment? Or was it just the latest Saw ripoff? It turns out, Captivity falls into the third category -- but it's so much less than that. At least the flesh-chewing torture devices in Saw are gender neutral. With almost all the violence here directed at women, the film is drenched in misogyny, enough to sicken audiences. Naturally, the filmmakers frown on the unspeakable things done to Cuthbert's Jennifer Tree -- no other position would be defensible. But the absence of socially redemptive commentary, combined with a total lack of cleverness or insight, makes the whole package hover between exploitative porn and snuff film. This characterization might heighten its appeal to those seeking "good" depravity, seeking new and different ways to be shocked. But despite some definitely unsettling set pieces, Captivity is also psychologically shallow and ultimately boring, featuring about the most improbable set of compartments and contraptions you're likely to see in a movie like this. What's most despicable is the implied message that Tree somehow "deserves" all of this by modeling for a living. If her character were a jerk, some condemnation of skin-deep beauty might be almost justifiable, but all evidence suggests she's basically a good person. Which leaves the filmmakers in quite the opposite camp. It's beyond understanding why an acclaimed director like Roland Joffé, once lauded for The Killing Fields and The Mission, would have aged into a purveyor of such hateful drivel.