Captivity immediately starts out like it wants to be Irreversible (2002). It has the same warm colors of reds and oranges. It utilizes a soundtrack of pulsating techno music. The sound design combines loud, startling bursts and muffled, far away groans. And the initial attack on the main character takes place in a long hallway. The look of the film is stylish and crisp, with a sort of music video look, but it is absolutely baffling to me that this was directed by Roland Joffé, the man who directed such wonderful films as City of Joy (1992) The Mission (1986) and The Killing Fields (1984).
Jennifer Tree (Elisha Cuthbert) is a young fashion model. One evening she decides to go out drinking by herself. At the bar, she sees a mysterious video camera in a hallway and is knocked unconscious by someone. When she wakes up she appears to be back in her hotel room. I hesitate to reveal what happens next because it's probably the most effective scene in the entire film. But, if you're smart you will avoid the film altogether. So it really shouldn't matter if I spoil one small surprise, early in the picture. She's not really in her hotel room. Dun dun dun!!! I won't say how they reveal it, but it's pretty inventive. So she is actually in a cold, dark cell. For pretty much the rest of the movie she is brutally tortured. Other people who are also being held in other cells are also tortured. We see everything, it's relentless, and doesn't seem to have much of a point, except to make the viewer squirm.
Wouldn't you know that a movie like this also has a dumb twist and the standard bit where the dead killer's not actually dead- that we've seen millions of times since Halloween (1978).
When analyzing literature in an academic setting, you learn to consider the meaning of the names of the characters. Writer Larry Cohen is no dummy. He's been writing a long time and he knows this. The female lead's last name is Tree. This is obviously to suggest her strength. Bad and offensive material cannot be justified just because it has a strong female character. But wouldn't you know that the secret to the whole movie lies in the last name of Gary Dexter (played by Daniel Gillies). For the record the hit cable T.V. series Dexter had it's first season in 2006- the year before this movie was released. I seriously facepalmed when I had this realization.
The brutality is nowhere near Irreversible. I am actually not a fan of Irriversible or its director Gaspare Noe. Irriversible is the better film. However, Joffe's track record as a filmmaker is much better. But you have to wonder if making a film like this leaves a stain on all of the others.
As I mentioned, one of the writers of the film is the great Larry Cohen. He is responsible for some great B-movies and horror films of the 70s and 80s. He also wrote the screenplay to one of the only Joel Schumacher films I like, Phone Booth (2002). As great as his writing has been in the past, he really missed the mark here. Instead, opting to only go for what Hollywood seems to think horror fans want- torture porn. The writers were nice enough to give a reason why the killer or killers do what they do. I'd still like to know why this movie was made. I'm going to go way out on a limb and say for money.