Remember back in 2014 when Netflix was known for its cut-rate made-for-TV movies instead of helming Oscar contenders? Yeah, this film feels like it missed the queue by a few years.
“Captive State” takes place on Earth after an alien species has invaded and forced humanity’s surrender, and follows a small faction determined to start a revolution. John Goodman, Ashton Sanders, Jonathan Majors, Machine Gun Kelly and Vera Farmiga star as Rupert Wyatt directs and co-writes.
I love John Goodman and was part of the group of people who really wanted award voters to take notice of him back in 2016 with “10 Cloverfield Lane,” because it was arguably a career-best turn from him. Here he is reuniting with “The Gambler” director Rupert Wyatt (who is best known for helming the first and best film of the “Planet of the Apes” reboot trilogy) and he just seems bored. He has a frown on his face the entire time and often seems as lost as the audience. Wyatt intentionally (or maybe not) gives us little information about Goodman’s character in an attempt to murky the waters and not let us know whether or not we can trust him, but the problem is Goodman isn’t the only person running around 2027 Chicago without an arc.
Ashton Sanders, Vera Farmiga, Machine Gun Kelly, all these people are given a job title and name and that is where their character development begins and ends. No personal demons to combat, no past they’re trying to run from or future they’re trying to embrace, just “character No. 14 in a sci-fi thriller.” Sanders has shown after his “Moonlight” turn that he has some acting chops and can even hold his own alongside Denzel Washington, but here he seems lost and his character literally does get lost for a good chunk of the film.
The alien designs are laughable at best (and just plain ugly and dumb at worst), but Wyatt doesn’t waste any time letting us get a good chuckle in. The aliens are shown in the very first scene, ruining any and all sense of wonder or suspense, and also confusing us the entire film with why the aliens are here and how they actually operate. Some of the other effects would be cheesy by 1977 standards and the climax to the film makes about as much sense as Rami Malek winning best actor this past year.
“Captive State” has all the makings of the next classic alien invasion thriller, except for the layered characters, creative creature designs, engaging plot, nail-biting tension and revolutionary special effects. It is the kind of film you would flip on Netflix and have going in the background, and if you were to randomly start watching at any point you would still know about as much as someone who had been paying attention since the opening credit crawl. Skip it. If you’re really jonesing for a movie, go see “Captain Marvel,” save your money for “Us” or go find John Carpenter’s “The Thing.”
Critic’s rating: 3 out of 10.