Atom Egoyan’s Film Receives First Boos at Cannes

I’m not really sure what the reasoning was behind accepting Atom Egoyan’s Captives into the main festival competition, especially after the hoopla around there being no female directors. There are probably twenty films directed by women, maybe some even directed by children, perhaps even some directed by chimps that are better than Captives. It only adds insult to injury to see a film like that, which has no business at all being here, taking the place of other worthy films.

Despite Egoyan’s unquestionable talent and general interest in the subject of abused or exploited children, he lost his hand somewhere along the way here. With the cast acting their hearts out, especially Scott Speedman and Ryan Reynolds, to say nothing of Rosario Dawson and Mireille Enos, this film was a squandered opportunity, which sometimes felt like it was taking shape but never really finding its cohesion. Half of the time you are watching a gritty crime drama set in the deep snow with a kidnapped kid, grieving parents and obsessed police men and women. The other half of the time you are dwelling in the absurd, and not the good kind. It’s hard not to compare it to Prisoners, which also did the same thing — turning out to be one of the worst entries at Telluride. But at least Prisoners had Roger Deakins behind the camera.

Both Prisoners and Captives display expert acting from an ensemble that appears not to realize how bad the movie they’re acting in really is. But this movie, receiving the first round of boos of the main competition so far, yes, even more so than Grace of Monaco, brings a little tarnish to the festival overall, as it’s nowhere near the level of quality the main competition usually brings.

Poor Reynolds and Enos star as parents of a young girl who is taken from the back of their truck one snowy afternoon. Their marriage begins to fall apart as a result, partly because the hard shell of Reynolds (like Hugh Jackman in Prisoners) alienates his wife and brings suspicion upon him by the police.

So far, so good, right? Rosario Dawson is wonderfully cast as the lead detective but ultimately wasted in the film. She and Scott Speedman have their own very interesting storyline. Oh, would that the film would stay with them and not drift over into the outlandish plot of the badly acted Super Villain who is holding the young girl captive in his house. Yes, this happens way too often, yes, internet sex trafficking is one of the plagues of our civilization, yes, too many children are taken as victims. But you can’t make the reality any worse by making it more strange (ditto Prisoners). The reality is horrific enough, believe me. It needs no embellishment. Yet embellish they do in a labyrinth of unbelievable plot points that take away any good the film has built upon the character that fill up the rest of the film.

The villain, as played by Kevin Duran appears to be acting in another movie, like maybe Austin Powers. Mugging for the camera, doing all the things repulsive pedophiles rarely do in reality. They are cowards who hide from society, not fancy pants showmen who live out loud. If the film wasn’t already falling apart, every time Duran is on camera it begins to swiftly dive bomb. What a shame, again, to repeat, given the level of commitment of these actors. It’s hard to imagine what the great Egoyan was thinking here. He knows better.

I would like to see all of these actors re-assembled for a better film because it isn’t really their fault this movie sucks so bad. It might not even be Egoyan’s fault, who knows. Sometimes films just don’t work and no amount of editing can save them. But if I wanted to save this movie I would make the internet porn ring closer to reality. That way, the horror comes from what is really around us every day, not an enhancement that belongs in the plot of a Superman movie and not a gritty crime drama.

A shame.

27 Comments on this Post

  1. Sasha,

    Little late, but did you happen to review Prisoners? I’d love to read it. Only recently saw the film.

  2. Edward Aguiar de Andrade

    Sasha,

    Thank you for yet another interesting review. In my opinion your comparison with Prisoners is harsh. Your premiss that all movies should be testaments of human message that stand the test of time should not be the only criterion of movie success. Just because american football doesn´t have the elegance and poetry of gymnastics doesn´t devalue the sport as a form of human expression and entertainment. The same applies to movies. Please allow me to make a suggestion: in future reviews, in order for us to understand what you mean with your comparisons, choose not only what you consider bad examples, but also the good ones. It is the only way for us readers to fully comprehend the extent and reasoning behind your review. In this case, which movies should captives and prisoners aspire to become: Se7en? Zodiac? Insomnia? ChinaTown? That being said, you are truly one the most gifted reviewers I have ever read, substantually and aestethically speaking. Please continue!

  3. Philipp

    Prisoners is a bad movie?

  4. I liked Prisoners. What was so wrong with it?

  5. prisoners was a great film. great reviews, beautifully shot by deakins. great film

  6. I feel bad for Reynolds and his bad run of movies.

  7. Sasha Stone

    Prisoners is a bad movie?

    It was a fine film until the last 30 minutes then it shit the bed. How it got a pass from anyone is beyond me. Melissa Leo? Seriously? It was like an episode of Criminal Minds.

  8. murtaza

    Sasha is right, Prisoners begins to suck as it closes in towards its end.

  9. nathan

    Small quibble, but it’s Kevin Durand not Duran. It sounds like that D can be used to grade his performance.

  10. Bryce Forestieri

    How do you like this for a review? PRISONERS was a great movie until it wasn’t and then it ended kind of strong. Not a bad time.

    But man I’m really sad about this. I like Ryan Reynolds as a funny man with credible dramatic chops, and he can’t catch a break. Really though? I liked the trailer.

  11. ‘The Sweet Hereafter’ was a masterpiece. His other films that I have seen are either just ok or rubbish. Even ‘Exotica’ I did not care for. So it is no surprise that the new film is not that good. He is a bit like M.Night Shyamalan. After three fantastic films it was downhill.

  12. Igor Sousa

    Everybody saw it coming. What was the last good effort by Egoyan?! I honestly can’t remember.

  13. ‘He is a bit like M.Night Shyamalan. After three fantastic films it was downhill.’

    Not gonna have that.

    Even Atom Egoyan’s biggest misfires have still displayed evidence of his considerable filmmaking talent, which I believe was actually best represented by Exotica – that might be my favourite Egoyan film. It’s there even in last year’s Devil’s Knot, which was reviled by critics. Despite these harsh reviews, I remain keen to see Captives.

  14. Ashwin, I wouldn’t compare Egoyan to Shyamalan…but you are right about Shyamalan.

  15. Ethel

    Agree with you about Melissa Leo (thought it was a somewhat odd, somewhat overacted character) but liked Prisoners quite a lot. Saw it at TIFF and was quite excited to see it because of the great reviews it garnered after its Venice debut.

  16. Bryce Forestieri

    People talking smack about Egoyan?

  17. phantom

    To me Prisoners was great acting & production values + solid concept + a convoluted script that should have cut a few subplots. To me, that equalled a good movie. The shame here is that it had the goods to be a great one.

  18. Bryce Forestieri

    MVP = Jake Gyllenhaal

  19. alexww

    I will never understand Egoyan, Ararat and The Sweet Hereafter are such perfect films, especially hereafter, the tone in that film and the way he so beautifully handles grief and loss are just perfect. And then he makes movies like Chloe, Devils Knot and Adoration…he is all over the map lately.

  20. I too appreciated Prisoners and I think dismissing it like this leads one to question whether the Egoyan film to which it is compared to is indeed such a total failure. I wouldn’t make too much of the booing in Cannes (Meryl Streep was booed when she won the acting prize for A Cry in the Dark, so…)

  21. Bryce Forestieri

    Is Sasha seeing WINTER SLEEP? The M word is being thrown around like crazy right this minute. Exciting.

  22. Robert A.

    “Meryl Streep was booed when she won the acting prize for A Cry in the Dark, so…”

    This is a little misleading, though. According to a Reuters article, you could hear a few boos in the audience because no one was there to accept Streep’s award for Best Actress. It doesn’t sound like they were booing her selection as Best Actress so much as they (and by “they” meaning only a few audience members) were booing because no one was there to accept the award.

  23. Jeremy

    Something to take the stink away from Grace of Monaco, perhaps…

  24. I very much liked Prisoners. And while I think the villain-reveal is pretty weak, I feel like we’ve let plenty of classic films get away with worse–forgiving many Disney classics for their lackluster protagonists, forgiving A Night at the Opera for the young lovers and the extraneous musical numbers, etc. So I’m hardly willing to write it off just because of its errors.

  25. But to get back to the main point, what the hell, Egoyan?

  26. The reason is simple: it’s a film festival for obscure films by filmmakers who can’t make money.

  27. Alan of Montreal

    I think after the huge success of The Sweet hereafter, Egoyan was probably afflicted with trytotopthat-itis, and so he’s dabbled in Hollywood with no success, then tried the earnest approach with no success. Even Ararat was pretty stilted, but I think a lot of that had to do with casting. Egoyan is at his best when he does cold, somber, distant, and Canadian.

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