I Am Pissed the Fuck Off
Captivity / Dustin Rowles
Film Reviews | July 13, 2007 | Comments ()
I don’t know how else to put this. There’s not a tactful way of saying it — no fancy critic-speak or appropriate metaphors to use here. So, I’ll just put it in the bluntest way possible: I fucking hated Captivity. I loathed it. I want to collect every print in America and burn them all. And I want to throw the filmmakers into the bonfire. I want to emasculate the director, Roland Joffe, and the screenwriters, Larry Cohen and Joseph Tura, in the worst way imaginable. I want to remove their testicles and feed them to wild animals while they look on in horror. I want to remove the three of them from the human race, along with the 12 producers, and the marketing team behind Captivity — I want to inflict upon them all some misguided vigilante justice. Some fantastical, Tarantino brand of vengeance. And though I know by wishing it upon them, I’m stooping to their level, I still desperately want them all to feel the pain of centuries of misogyny and female degradation in one prolonged, indescribably agonizing form of torment.
But, more than anything, I don’t want anyone to see this film — I want it to fail spectacularly. I want the filmgoers of this nation to prove that we’re above this sort of contempt and hate of the female sex. That we’re not actually a nation of sick, twisted frat-boy fuckers who’d get off on this sort of depravity. That there is a line, and that we, collectively, recognize that it’s been crossed, and we won’t subsidize it anymore. That we can reluctantly accept the insulting comedies, the drab thrillers, and the tiresome, lifeless romantic comedies, but that this sort of noxious cinematic poison is not only deplorable, but morally criminal.
Granted, there is an ad for this very movie on our site. One that I mistakenly accepted before seeing the film (and trust me, that odious version of the ad was not the version submitted to me), and one that I can do nothing to get rid of, short of removing the adstrip and pissing off the other advertisers (which I’ve considered) or shutting down the site all together. But then I couldn’t express my utter contempt for Captivity. I couldn’t encourage you all to refuse to give your business to it. To throw metaphorical rocks at its presence. To surreptitiously rip down its movie posters. And to offer the most effective means of protest: Your refusal to see it.
And yes, sure — we have expressed our distaste for torture porn on several occasions on these pages. But Captivity is a new low for what’s already the lowest form of cinematic entertainment. It is the nadir of the subgenre’s short existence. It is everything (everything) that is despicable and vile and offensive about torture porn distilled into 90 minutes of loathsome opprobrium. It’s repellent. Horrid. And thoroughly unpleasant. And I wouldn’t wish the experience of watching it upon anybody. Captivity is a cinematic cesspool where only sick fucking degenerates can get their rocks off, and it’s about as useful as second-hand toilet paper — only, it stinks a whole helluva lot more.
Joffe, who I hope to God doesn’t have a mother alive to see this, sets the mood immediately: Cold and dispassionate. Then he presents the captive, Jennifer (Elisha Cuthbert), a model with no trace of a back story. She’s just a girl. Blonde. Pretty. Has a toy poodle. Likes apple martinis. Has four limbs and a pair of breasts. Joffe doesn’t want to humanize her in any way — she’s just a piece of torture-porn meat. An outlet — an empty receptacle — with which he can show off his depravity. And it’s unfuckingbelievable garbage.
At a bar, Jennifer’s drink is spiked. A few minutes later, she wakes up in the torturer’s dungeon, which the captor has decorated with things from her apartment. Immediately, the cruel fucking bullshit begins. Jennifer is given the Clockwork Orange treatment — she’s strapped into a chair and made to watch the torture of a previous victim, a woman showered with acid. Acid, people. Acid. Fucking sick deplorable shit. The whole movie makes Saw look like motherfucking My Fair Lady with an industrial metal soundtrack.
When Jennifer rebels — when she tries to escape — she’s put in her place by the “man,” like all women should be, I suppose. She’s drugged. Chased with a bone saw in a heating duct. Drugged again. Buried in sand. Drugged again. Made to choose between blowing a hole in her dog with a shotgun or getting shot in the face with it (she chooses the former, and the dog’s guts explode in her face). And, worst of all, she’s made to ingest a smoothie of blended human parts through a funnel. Just for kicks. Sick motherfucking kicks. And, of course, through it all, there are more damsel-in-despair cries than a goddamn Olive Oyl costume party.
In fact, Captivity is basically a 90-minute desensitizing seminar — there are so many torture scenes that, eventually, it becomes tedious, banal. The torture no longer registers as torture, just some sick fuck’s idea of recreation. I mean, after you watch a girl drink human organs, how much more shocking can it feel to watch a small boy stab his mother to death or witness the torturer pull a man’s teeth out with pliers?
*Spoilers here on out, for the douchebag degenerates that actually want to see this bullshit.*
As for the plot, there is none. And I don’t say that in a hyperbolic way, in a way meant to imply that the narrative is weak or there’s no logic in the way it unspools. I mean, literally, there is no plot: An unknown man kidnaps a girl. He tortures her. He tortures her dungeon-mate. He tortures her some more. Then the two captives, inexplicably, fuck each other.
But, of course, just because there’s no plot doesn’t mean that the ending can’t be not only unfathomably ridiculous, but excruciatingly offensive. Because, you see, worse than the torture — the interminable, never-ending, relentless torture — is the punch line to this terrible fucking joke. Jennifer’s male co-captive is actually the captor. The whole goddamn series of torturous events was staged — one sick, motherfucking nauseatingly twisted form of date rape. He killed her dog, he made her eat human organs, and he made her endure days of physical and psychological torture so that he could wear her down and have consensual sex with her while his brother and co-conspirator watched. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why would a guy who has no reservations about showering a woman with acid insist that the sex be consensual? What is the goddamn message here? That roofies just won’t cut it anymore?
And I’m sure the filmmakers will argue that Captivity has some sort of feminist empowerment message behind it because Jennifer, the captive, eventually figures it all out and kills her kidnapper, walking away “triumphantly” as the credits roll. But, that’s total fucking bullshit, because for 89 of the 90-minute run time, Joffe and his cinematic henchmen try to pass off torture and date rape as a form of entertainment — they somehow expect people will want to pay to see a woman suffer for 89 minutes and then hope the audience feels vindicated because she mercilessly puts two in her captor’s chest before the screen goes black. Well, fuck that. And fuck you, Joffe, et al. for thinking we’re that easily manipulated.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.