Captive State (2019) [a film review by Frank Ochieng].

If one is going to call its edgy alien invasion SF flick as compelling and intriguing as ‘Captive State’ , then it better live up to the promising hype of its chest-pounding titular label. Co-writer/director Rupert Wyatt (“Rise  Of The Planet Of The Apes’) serves up the fundamental concept of a shadowy SF/fantasy thriller that boasts mostly surface-level, moody-driven titillation.

Although ‘Captive State’ has its share of jittery stimulation and actually boasts a capable cast of notables and newcomers within its macabre mixture of suspended suspense Wyatt’s artistic punch feels rather cluttered. Ultimately, ‘Captive State’  feels laboured in murkiness and confusion with its source of storytelling unraveling in strained ambiguity. The film’s over-indulgent dank and dingy presentation on a wide scale is sadly mistaken for eye-opening opulence.

Wyatt and fellow scriber Erica Beeney welcomes the weary audience into a so-called unforgiven landscape of dysphoria in 2027 Chicago where occupied forces of ominous alien species have invaded the planet Earth. While utilising its dreary sense of urgency, as these vicious visitors look to unseat mankind at its most exposed, the doomsday-inspired allegories at large hover over the proceedings much like a lazy grey cloud.

‘Captive State’ takes baby steps in showcasing the continual despair and dysfunction of its beleaguered governmental officials and the world citizens that must capitulate to the hostile takeover at large. However, the critical stakes at the forefront of insidious space invaders tainting the psyche of endangered Chicagoans set against the bombastic background of muddled malaise does not quite elevate ‘Captive State’ beyond another derivative disaster movie basically flexing a basic bicep of puff-piece paranoia.

Indeed, the premise is challenging and contemplative as an apocalyptic Chicago, some would aptly concur that the city is a modern-day war zone for destruction and deterioration, is used as the convenient futuristic backdrop for crime-ridden chaos and corruption. The commentary is quite telling as the message rings loud and clear concerning the questionable line between the shady threat of predatorial protectors that one may not be aware at the moment, opportunistic crooked cops/politicians versus the galactic menaces from beyond and who is the real enemy at large? ‘Captive State’ poses an interesting dichotomy in its dilemma of alien explosion but the film is too flat and stiff to expound on its anaemic themes of human oppression and resistance.

John Goodman’s top dog police enforcer seems to be in a CAPTIVE STATE of mind. Go figure.

The Legislators (yeah…the actual moniker of the authoritative aliens) are the extra-terrestrial threats that have been in power for nine years since seizing the planet Earth. However, they are not as prominent in making their presence known to the vulnerable human masses. Instead, they prefer to lay low underground and enforce their sinister agenda through appeasing human sellouts that ensure the Legislators’ controlled philosophies are ushered through the societal authorities supposedly calling the shots.

The trusted humanoid sacrifices that shill for the Legislators are mere pawns in the scheme of things. Inevitably, The Legislators want to install their version of a governmental shakedown to favor their planetary promises of complete domination. Either one serves as the ‘human puppet’ for self-preservation or risk the scrutiny awaiting around the corner. Basically, it is survival of the fittest…a ‘them vs. us’ scenario that has been played out needlessly.

The key human factors that trigger the centralised plotting within the narrative involve a presumably shifty police commander William Mulligan (John Goodman) wallowing in his role as the law and order liaison for the human public and an urban teen (Ashton Sanders, ‘Moonlighting’) recovering from the death of his vocal brother, an outspoken activist in the resistant movement to reclaim the global sensibilities for its human denizens.

Again the political static and strife, shady SF elements of alien infiltration and the idea of the evil forces, unassuming or otherwise, make for a compelling concoction of a supernatural crime-thriller/SF saga. But ‘Captive State’ struggles to embrace these floating conflicts into a cogent caper of creepiness that registers solidly. Grainy cinematography, recycled alien-invasion clichés and stillborn character development all contribute to the transparent viewing that will no doubt leave us in a captive state of indifference.

Captive State (2019)

Focus Features

1 hr. 49 mins.

Starring: John Goodman, Ashton Sanders, Vera Farmiga, Jonathan Majors, Machine Gun Kelly and D.B. Sweeney

Directed by: Rupert Wyatt

Written by: Rupert Wyatt and Erica Beeney


Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy/Mystery & Suspense/Crime Drama

Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng (2019)


Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

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