Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Captive State: Revolt Against the “Legislators”

It is sort of like V for a new generation. We will meet (briefly) the alien “Visitors,” now called “Legislators,” who will be taking care of things on Earth for us now and the humans who chose to collaborate to maintain their own sliver of power. Our world is in thrall to an alien occupation, but the opening exposition rather hilariously tells us the gap between rich and poor is now wider than ever. Surely, mansplaining is also on the rise. Fortunately, there is still the remnant of a resistance that favors freedom over safety in Rupert Wyatt’s Captive State, which releases today on DVD.

Alas, the governments of Earth were forced to surrender unconditionally. There was a rag-tag resistance, but they were essentially wiped out in Chicagoland, during an infamous battle. Now everyone pretends having the “Legislators” in charge is all for the best, especially the mayor and the police chief. The city is even gearing up for a big peace rally in Soldier Field.

However, senior Chicago cop William Mulligan is not so sure the resistance has really scattered to the wind. He suspects there is an underground network communicating through the old-fashioned newspaper classified ads. His hunches also lead him to keep tabs on Gabriel Drummond, the son of his late partner and the brother of fallen resistance leader Rafe Drummond. His intuition is pretty sharp, because it turns out Rafe is still alive and planning a significant attack on the Legislators’ peace rally.

Frankly, Wyatt and co-screenwriter Erica Beeney offer up a pretty worthy message regarding the dangers of opting for security over freedom. It would be nice if they still mean that when it comes to cradle-to-grave socialism too. Heck, maybe they do, considering the evil aliens are called “Legislators.” Regardless, the tension between these two human values is very real and believable throughout the film. The problem is the big twist at the end is glaringly obvious, thanks to a conspicuous classical reference that makes little sense when it is first dropped.

Regardless, John Goodman is terrific as the dogged Mulligan, especially in light of where the film takes him. Ashton Sanders is rather blandly angry as the angsty Gabriel Drummond, but Jonathan Majors seethes with righteous rebellious intensity as the older Drummond brother. Veteran character actors James Ransone, Alan Ruck, Kevin O’Connor, and Ben Daniels all add color and grit as members of the resistance, while Kevin Dunn does his sleazy thing as the police commissioner.

There are relatively few scenes of the aliens—and when they do appear, their powers and properties are not clearly defined. However, Wyatt and the special effects team create some string images of the aliens’ enormous space crafts and the extent to which they have altered the skyline of Chicago. Without question, Captive State is far more impressive visually than it is as a work of storytelling. It is strange it didn’t make more noise in theaters (maybe because it really doesn’t land as a Trump allegory), but sf fans will find it is worth checking out when Captive State goes on-sale today (6/11) on DVD.