In watching Rupert Wyatt’s (Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes) Captive State I was constantly reminded of Star Wars (1977) because both movies are relatively simple in terms of their story, yet to very different effect.
Star Wars takes works well within the confides of a narrative that is no richer that the typical Saturday afternoon Western (I might be dating myself somewhat there) with good guys wearing white and bad guys, black.
Captive State also has a relatively simple story: Aliens arrive and take over – though perhaps that’s not the right word since no shots were fired and our government accepted them pretty quickly, despite the fact that anyone with an iota of common sense (and having seen these types of movies) would have found it a bit difficult to swallow, no matter what our elected officials decided.
Though not everyone accepts this, which means they’re fighting not only the government, but the aliens.
And speaking of the aliens, they’re in the movie for such a relatively short period of time – their combined time on camera can’t be any more than 10 minutes, which is a problem with your movie lasts over an hour and 40 minutes.
Another problem is that the movie doesn’t create anything in the way of contrast between collaborators and regular people/resistance. Everyone seems to be living miserable lives (though it appears that well-connected people are doing well) which makes the whole idea a bit pointless.
Going back to Star Wars as a reference, imagine if everyone looked like the Galactic Empire in terms of the way they dressed, acted and lived? There’d be little in the way of contrast and a lot more confusing as to why people are doing what they do.
This lack of contrast is a problem because the story doesn’t show you why collaboration is a bad thing (beyond the squalor, that is).
In fact, the collaborators don’t seem to live any better than the people who actively resist the presence of the invaders, which makes me wonder what’s the basis of their acquiescence.
The story establishes relatively early that they’re essentially strip-mining the planet – like we do, though on a much larger scale – but doesn’t point to any reason for people to support them so enthusiastically (beyond an implication that when everything goes tits-up they’re going to take some well-placed people with them).
Though this is likely not common knowledge, since the aliens aren’t exactly forthcoming with their plans and the resistance would be much larger.
This lack of contrast – despite being relatively simplistic in terms of storyline – is where the movie falls apart and would probably have been better served by focusing more on the well-to-do because as it currently stands there’s a bit of a surprise ending that’s not much of a surprise because the movie unintentionally gives itself away by not providing any real contrast in terms of the suspects.
In other words, if you don’t solve the mystery within maybe the first 10-20 minutes you were either not paying close attention, or don’t care.
Which isn’t to say that it’s a bad movie – it’s well shot and acted, as well competently directed – though it falls apart in the writing, where it’s relatively simple structure should have held it in good stead.
It doesn’t, but it should have.