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(cert 12A, 2015, David Oyelowo, Kate Mara)

David Oyelowo’s portrayal of Martin Luther King in Selma established him as a major Hollywood talent. He’s back on our cinema screens in another film based on a true story that took place in America’s South – only this time playing a character as far removed from the good Reverend Doctor as one could possibly get.

Captive is based on the book An Unlikely Angel by Ashley Smith. It’s the story of how Ashley ended up being taken hostage by Brian Nichols, a felon who had escaped police custody, killing five people in the process. This all happened in Atlanta in 2005. Ashley passed her time in captivity by reading Rick Warren’s book The Purpose-Driven Life. At first, Brian dismisses it as “church cr*p”, but allows her to keep reading it to him anyway.

Unlike many of the other Christian films that have come our way recently, the characters in this film aren’t caricatures. The leading lady has some very real flaws and even though we see the bad guy kill a handful of people, we also see his insecurities and his wishes that his life had gone differently.

Kate Mara puts in a strong performance as Ashley, and I haven’t seen David look this mean since Spooks. David’s wife Jessica Oyelowo also makes an appearance, playing a TV journalist whose news reports the Police use to flush Brian out of hiding.   

Aside from being a tense thriller (and, let’s be honest here, a commercial for Rick Warren’s famous book), Captive is also very much a story about parenthood and a message of hope to people who may feel that they have failed as parents; whether it’s Ashley, whose daughter lives with an aunt while she struggles to kick her drug habit, or Brian whose ex refuses to let him see the son they had together, following his conviction for an assault on another ex-girlfriend of his (a crime he repeatedly says he didn’t commit).

The scenes in which Ashley reads the Purpose-Driven Life aloud to Brian do smack of extreme product placement. This gets cranked up even further when the closing credits run and we’re shown a clip of Oprah Winfrey interviewing the real Ashley Smith on her TV show and then introducing her to Rick Warren. But the book is a key part of this story – and as Rick says, it is ultimately a story of hope (yes, he was saying that about his book. But it applies just as much to Ashley’s too).

George Luke

Editor's note: Ethos Media has produced a free downloadable Viewers' Guide for churches to use in connection with the film. You can also order free printed copies of the guide for just the cost of postage from CPO.

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