As a celebration of the unprecedented number of Canadian films that competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2014 Cannes International Film Festival, Moviefone Canada is highlighting each of these works.
For decades now, Atom Egoyan has been one of Canada's most celebrated and lauded directors. From massive critical hits such as "Exotica" and "The Sweet Hereafter," he has established himself among the elite of English Canadian film auteurs.
Egoyan is no stranger to the Cannes Film Festival, having unspooled many of his films here, and he was an instrumental member of the jury back in '96, when David Cronenberg won his Special Jury Award for "daring and audacity."
Egoyan brings crime drama "The Captive" this year, starring Vancouver's Ryan Reynolds along with Scott Speedman, Rosario Dawson, Mireille Enos, and longtime collaborator, Quebec native Bruce Greenwood.
Egoyan scripted the film with his friend and previous collaborator David Fraser, incorporating what Egoyan described to me as "Scandanavian crime thriller" elements.
In fact, the film feels more like a pilot for a television show than a theatrical film. There's these odd inclusions of what are dubbed "procedural" elements, quirks of character that make it seem like the office life of the main characters is richer than may first appear as they interact with a shorthand repartee. Unfortunately, these asides (most overtly seen in a "puzzle-solving" scene) seem to go nowhere -- it's great we learn about these background characters, but since we never hear from them again in any meaningful way, it all seems a bit pointless.
The film is a hard-hitting look at child exploitation and kidnapping, making a kind of clever twist on the myriad of abduction stories that get made every year. Rather than the bad guys using the children for abuse, they're used to form narratives, with the plight of the grieving parents surreptitiously captured for the amusement of the lecherous.
Dawson brings tremendous conviction to her role, and almost manages the impossible task of making an Ontario Provincial Police-like uniform look sexy. Reynolds is himself in need of a critical hit, and he certainly brings his A-game, providing the film with much of its emotional impact.
I'm always happy to see Kevin Durand, a big guy from Thunder Bay who I'd love to see make it into the big time. For now he's usually used in small-yet-interesting character parts, and here his comic-book like character doesn't give him much to work with, but he gives it his all.
Despite these ingredients, the film falls apart under its own weight. The Niagara setting, with its frozen falls, is meant to be a metaphor for the constraint and confinement of all that pent-up kinetic power, but it just makes the film feel too local, too clunky. Just as with last year's "The Art of the Steal," Niagara Falls is an iconic enough small town with so little going for it visually (besides the falls) that it's hard to take seriously as a locale where anything nefarious/interesting takes place.
Even generous critics are looking at "The Captive" as merely better than Egoyan's last film, the seriously underwhelming "Devil's Knot." This is a bit of a lull for this director, and while he continues to explore notions surrounding the loss of a child (a theme consistent with several of his works), it's hard to see that "The Captive" does much to add to his cachet.
While it's extremely gratifying that this genial and intelligent filmmaker continues to bring works to festivals such as Cannes, I for one continue to hope that he'll connect again with a film like he did with his great works from the '90s. For now, "Captive" isn't very captivating, and that's a shame.
"Captive" will get a Canadian release date in 2014. There is no official trailer at the time of this writing.