Captive State Parent Guide
With confused action sequences and a poorly paced plot, "Captive State" is a pale imitation of better films.
Parent Movie Review
When the aliens first arrived, they quickly dominated the world, absorbing national governments, enslaving the citizenry, and plundering Earth for raw materials. Nine years have passed since the invasion, and people have grown accustomed to their alien overlords. In Chicago, Gabriel Drummond (Ashton Sanders) does small delivery jobs for a resistance movement called “Phoenix”, created by his deceased brother Rafe (Jonathan Majors). However, his efforts are hampered by the diligent efforts of his father’s former partner, Officer William Mulligan (John Goodman) to keep an eye on him. Mulligan has been tasked with destroying Phoenix and uses an attack by the resistance as an excuse to arrest and recruit Gabriel to work for the police. Will Gabriel be able to subvert the system in time to help his friends, or is it too powerful to be broken?
Captive State is biting off a lot for a movie that runs under two hours in length. It jumps around between so many characters that most of them barely get named and speak a few lines of dialogue before they disappear or get killed off. You’d think that would leave a lot of space for action, and you’d be right… kind of. While a lot of things happen, it’s not always clear what’s happening or why it’s significant. Although some of that gets resolved in the Big Ending, a good chunk of the action feels like stuff happening for the sake of stuff happening. The main character spends a good 45 minutes of the movie locked in various rooms (and offscreen) while the plot unfolds outside. Predictably, this makes the movie feel slower than molasses in a Canadian February.
Amidst the chaos that passes for a plot, the biggest surprise is that the film sneaks in at a PG-13 rating. There isn’t a huge amount of swearing – mainly because there isn’t much dialogue that extends beyond a half dozen words. But the language has a disproportionate amount of extreme profanity, particularly three sexual expletives. Similarly, while there isn’t any recreational drinking or smoking, it is implied that a character uses cocaine to boost his courage. The real kicker, though, is the violence. Not surprisingly, a movie about resisting an alien occupation is full of violent confrontations and features scenes of torture, police brutality, suicide, and bombings. This is assuredly not a movie for children or sensitive viewers of any age.
Captive State isn’t terrible, but there’s a lot of dead space between “terrible” and “good”. The movie raises interesting questions about resistance and collaboration, and even comes close to providing an answer for some of them but does so without personality or fleshed-out characters. Where the film succeeds is in its strong tone and intriguing world-building, but that’s certainly not enough to save it. The real interest for audiences lies in figuring out how much of the story is borrowed from similar and better films. While Captive State manages to be mildly diverting, the only way it will make any money is if it has a captive audience.Directed by Rupert Wyatt. Starring John Goodman, Ashton Sanders, and Jonathan Majors. Running time: 109 minutes. Theatrical release March 15, 2019. Updated March 15, 2019
Watch the trailer for Captive State
Rating & Content Info
Why is Captive State rated PG-13? Captive State is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief language and drug material
Violence: Two people are vaporized into a bloody mist. An alien breaks a vehicle window and reaches in to grab a man. Police shoot a fleeing man. A woman is shot by police. A woman is hit with clubs. Police push and kick a man. An individual undergoes a minor surgery, and a bloody incision is shown. A man becomes an unwitting suicide bomber. A massive explosion kills an unspecified number of people. An alien has its face/helmet torn off, and this appears to kill it. An individual is shown removing long spines from bloody abdominal stab wounds. A man is beaten heavily. A man is trapped in a glass booth by aliens whose suction type mouths are stuck on it. A man puts a metal collar on another man. A person takes a poison capsule to avoid capture. An individual is vaporized. A man is shown wounded and bruised after being tortured. An unarmed individual is shot in the head. Several individuals are shown dead after committing suicide (offscreen) to avoid capture. A car accident is shown, including a broken windshield and spraying blood. Several characters pull guns on other people. We see surgical footage where a small alien creature is removed from a woman’s neck. A woman lights a car on fire.
Sexual Content: Two individuals are briefly shown, presumably having sex, but fully clothed on a surveillance camera. A person walks through what is described as a brothel, but no sexual activity is shown although scantily clad women are clearly visible. A woman is shown topless from behind. A woman is shown wearing a bra and a sheer skirt. The shape of a man’s genitals are visible through his underwear. Men are shown wearing women’s clothing in a club setting.
Profanity: There are approximately 7 uses of “moderate” profanities, and 3 uses of an “extreme” profanity. There are a few terms of deity used as well.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Alcohol is not depicted in the movie. An individual rolls a cigarette but does not smoke it, as it contains secret information. A character lays out a line of what is presumably cocaine before a dangerous mission, but is not shown ingesting it. Minor characters are shown smoking in a scene.
Page last updated March 15, 2019
Captive State Parents' Guide
What would you do in the event of an occupation by a vastly more powerful force? Do you think collaboration is a legitimate means to an end? What are the hazards of resistance? What are the benefits?
Captive State shows a far-fetched science-fiction scenario of alien invasion, but for many countries, a similar invasion occurred when European colonial powers arrived and plundered the natural resources, frequently killing or enslaving the population and installing new governments. Can you think of some countries which suffered under colonial regimes? Which countries benefitted from colonialism? Do you think the colonized countries and people are entitled to compensation?
World War II also saw hostile occupation when Nazi Germany conquered most of Europe and Imperial Japan overran parts of Asia and the Pacific. In both cases, some people collaborated with the occupiers and others resisted. Why do you think people made the choices they did? Japan and Germany both paid reparations after the war. Do you think their reparations were adequate?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Looking for a dystopic world with an authoritarian government? Try Ray Bradbury’s classic
Fahrenheit 451. Another classic featuring a lone man against a powerful state is George Orwell’s 1984.
Also a classic, and the inspiration for Blade Runner, is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick.
Fans of space drama will enjoy 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Tween and teen readers can crack open Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game with its riveting tale of a child who becomes central to protecting earth from alien invasion. Eoin Colfer tells the story of a brilliant young anti-hero who tangles with fairies who also inhabit the earth in the soon-to-be-filmed novel, Artemis Fowl,
Related home video titles:
For alternate takes on first contact scenarios, Star Trek: First Contact, Arrival, and Contact are all excellent films depicting possible outcomes of reaching out to alien life. Men In Black depicts a reality in which aliens have been secretly and peacefully living among us for decades.
For a film about alien invaders and human resistance, try The Host.
Films which feature resistance movements against powerful authoritarian governments include The Matrix and Terminator: Salvation,. An alternate take on this, in which the government is forced to respond to dangerous underground movements, is featured in films like 2002’s Sum of All Fears.
Frankly, the closest thing to this movie is neither a book nor a film, but 2004’s Half Life 2, a video game released on Xbox 360 and PC, which details a valiant resistance against a totalitarian alien regime with many human collaborators.