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With: John Goodman, Ashton Sanders, Jonathan Majors, Machine Gun Kelly, Vera Farmiga, Alan Ruck, Kevin Dunn, David J Height, Madeline Brewer, Ben Daniels, D. B. Sweeney, Kevin J. O'Connor, KiKi Layne, Marc Grapey, James Ransone
Written by: Erica Beeney, Rupert Wyatt
Directed by: Rupert Wyatt
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief language and drug material
Running Time: 110
Date: 03/15/2019

Captive State (2019)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Placed Invaders

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Although complex and satisfying, and not overly reliant on visual effects, this alien-invasion movie still feels somewhat dispassionate, concentrating less on characters and more on its own big ideas.

In Captive State, a race of aliens descend upon the earth. Years later, the underground-dwelling, energy-sucking creatures have struck a truce with earth's governments. But young Gabriel (Ashton Sanders), who saw his parents killed by aliens, remains dedicated to keeping a rebellion alive in the gritty Chicago streets. He follows in the footsteps of his older brother, who became a folk hero while trying to fight back.

Meanwhile, police officer Mulligan (John Goodman), whose former partner was Gabriel's dad, is determined to keep Gabriel out of trouble, while attempting to keep relations stable between the aliens and humans. While the rebel group known as Phoenix plots to set off an invisible explosive during a meeting between a human politician and an alien, other, more intricate plans are also set in motion.

Co-written and directed by Rupert Wyatt, whose Rise of the Planet of the Apes was likewise clever, but also exciting and moving, Captive State opens awkwardly, with characters trading explanatory dialogue designed to fill viewers in on the miserable state of everything. Characters are mainly defined by what they believe in, not who they actually are, and, despite the great cast, it's difficult to get past any of it.

But, happily, things do pick up. Eventually characters stop talking so much, and we begin to focus on the process of things, the weblike underground network that develops and transports all the necessary moving parts, all with the utmost discretion. The characters still feel a little disconnected, but at least their actions are interesting. And, to be sure, the final piece of the puzzle is definitely worth the trouble.

Wyatt doesn't bother with too many alien effects (although the creatures do feel a tad familiar), instead focusing on a grayish, blasted-out dystopian look. Vera Farmiga is especially good in her role as a mysterious courtesan, tucked away in a private little haven filled with books and knowledge.

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