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.