Nearly a decade after occupation by an extraterrestrial force, the lives of a Chicago neighborhood on both sides of the conflict are explored.
ActorsStarring: John Goodman, Vera Farmiga, Ashton Sanders, Machine Gun Kelly, Madeline Brewer, Alan Ruck, James Ransone, Kevin J. O'Connor, Ben Daniels, D. B. Sweeney, Jonathan Majors, Kevin Dunn, Kiki Layne, Ta'Rhonda Jones, Lizzy Leigh, Brian Bowman, José Antonio García, Marc Grapey, Alex Henderson, Otis Winston, Jackie Saland, Carey Jones, Mickey O'Sullivan, Giota Trakas, Rene L. Moreno, Mino Mackic
We have seen quite a few movies set in a bleak dystopian future in recent times. Captive State sees the population living in a surveillance state following an alien invasion that took place a decade ago, resulting in the world’s governments surrendering to these aliens who now deplete the planet of its resources. The aliens are therefore now called the Legislators, but they are rarely seen – they let earth’s governments run the show for them as long as they get the resources they want and smack down hard on any rebellion or resistance.
Of course, not everyone is compliant and members of an underground organisation called Phoenix hopes to find ways to light a match and start a war that will end the oppression. Gabriel (Ashton Sanders) is trying to join Phoenix, an ambition made harder due to police officer William Mulligan (John Goodman) keeping close tabs on him; Gabriel is the sone of Mulligan’s ex-partner who was killed in the original invasion, and Mulligan is trying to turn Gabriel into a mole to get access to Phoenix.
The premise on its own is not too creative, but moving the timeline to a decade post-invasion creates the potential for a different kind of story to most sci-fi alien invasion movies. Combine that with some more than decent talent there is a lot of promise here; director Rupert Wyatt did a solid job re-invigorating the Planet of the Apes franchise; John Goodman is always at least a safe pair of hands and his recent turn in 10 Cloverfield Lane was excellent; and Ashton Sanders showed great promise in Moonlight.
While the storyline sort of works, the movie sort of doesn’t. It’s certainly never terrible, but is also never great. Firstly and mostly, the script is a bit too straightforward. The hints about true intentions are not very subtle, but in case you missed it, they are repeated a few times. There is no character development to speak of, and John Goodman and Vera Farmiga feel terribly under-used. Ashton Sanders gets more space and uses it well – but there is not enough of an arc to his character to make it a stand out performance.
The cinematography is rather dull and bland – a drabness befitting the dystopian future, but we have seen much more visually inspired dystopia in movies like Blade Runner, Snowpiercer or even the underwhelming Chappie. The pacing is a bit slow; there are a few scenes where things speed up a bit, with editing and a score to get you into things, but before long it slows back down again.
It would be unfair to say it is a boring movie; it is also not a bad movie. It is more a case of frustrating under-utilisation of potential – a complex world, a multitude of characters and motivations, and a range of more than solid actors, which one would think all combined could have made this movie a lot more interesting than what in the end disappointingly feels like a by-the-numbers story.