It’s never a good sign when a film withholds screening it’s movie for the press before its release. So when people ask “What is Captive State about?” after sitting through this movie for nearly 2 hours, i’m not sure there is a clear answer to that question. The film doesn’t bother to explain the basic plot outline needed to understand what the hell you are watching so i’m going to do my best to break it down for you.
Captive State begins 9 1/2 years after an event called ‘first contact’. Aliens from space arrived on planet Earth and begin to take over by blasting an African American couple into stardust in front of their kids. The aliens have semi-taken over the planet, an agreement was reached with the humans that will allow aliens access to Earth’s natural resources in exchange for peace. However, an underground resistance of domestic terrorists is trying to start a war with the aliens as they believe that they have enslaved humanity not created peace. A young man named Gabriel (Ashton Sanders) becomes a tool of the resistance, but he has an aggressive Chicago Police Officer (John Goodman) following his every move trying to stop them before they bring certain war.
The reason why Captive State is so confusing is that they intentionally keep you in the dark about what is going on until the very end. They just don’t do it in a suspenseful way that builds to an exciting conclusion. Despite drowning you in exposition in the first two minutes, about thirty minutes in, you’ll find yourself asking what exactly is the story here? The aliens force humans to build them a habitat, but that is explained in passing instead of shown on screen. We aimlessly follow around random characters who we are not introduced to as they complete random tasks that aren’t explained to set up a war that we are shown the human are not prepared for. There is no clear direction on what is being told here.
Captive State doesn’t focus it’s story on a single protagonist and instead opts to bounce around multiple characters without giving you a reason to care about any of them. As a sci-fi, you get elements that are introduced but not explained such as these bug-like creatures that are implanted in every citizen to track their movements but they don’t explain the angle any further than that. There is talk of space deportations along with separate civilizations of aliens but again, none of this is shown or followed up on and this becomes the theme of the movie.
The editing is horrible as erratic quick cuts do nothing to improve the lack of a narrative. John Goodman walks the tightrope between protagonist and antagonist as he seemly is playing both sides of the field but his intentions are never actually explained. Vera Farmiga is in the film all of two minutes, which is criminal considering how important they try to portray her character’s role in the film. Captive State as a whole is just uninteresting as well as uninspiring, you can try to convince yourself that you have to process a supreme level of intelligence to understand this movie *cough* Edward Douglas *cough* but most audiences will see it as a film that spends a whole lot of time to say a whole lot of nothing.