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Movie Review


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving violence and substance abuse.

Reviewed by: Samuel Chetty

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Faith-based Crime Drama Adaptation
1 hr. 37 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 18, 2015 (wide—800+ theaters)
DVD: January 12, 2016
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Relevant Issues
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substance abuse

FEAR, anxiety and Worry—What does the Bible say? Answer


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Featuring: Kate MaraAshley Smith
David Oyelowo … Brian Nichols
Michael Kenneth Williams (Michael K. Williams) … Detective John Chestnut
Mimi Rogers … Kim Rogers
Leonor Varela … Detective Sanchez
Jessica Oyelowo
Matt Lowe … Randy
more »
Director: Jerry Jameson—“Raise the Titanic”
Producer: Ralph Winter
Brightside Entertainment
more »
Distributor: Paramount Pictures Corporation

“Faith. Redemption. Survival.”

This film is an adaptation of Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Hostage Hero by Ashley Smith with Stacy Mattingly.

“Captive” is a movie based on a real-life story from 2005. Ashley Smith (Kate Mara) is taken hostage in her apartment by Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo), a prisoner who killed several people to escape from jail. Though Brian is aggressive and controlling towards Ashley, at first, he eventually calms down, and Ashley reads him some passages from the The Purpose Driven Life, a book by Rick Warren. In response, Brian starts thinking about his life. But can he find any value to his life to prompt him to abort his escape from the authorities and face a life in prison?

This movie tells an uplifting story about God giving meaning to our lives, and how, without His power, we can be trapped in various problems. In the beginning of the movie, Ashley is a meth addict, and she describes how she cannot break the addiction, even though every time she caves into to temptation she thinks it will be the last time. Brian says that he has a demon. If that is true, it would explain his compulsive violence. While trapped in her apartment, Ashley prays to God for help, and the movie comes to a redemptive conclusion.

A relevant passage from the Bible is Romans 8:28 (NIV),

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

Another passage, Romans 10:11, states that those who trust in God will not be put to shame. The Bible shows that, regardless of what is happening to us now, by trusting in God, our life will not come to a shameful end, because God can work all things toward a positive goal.

While “Captive” is an inspiring movie, it is for mature audiences. Despite the PG-13 rating, I really feel the movie is too intense for young teenagers, due to the violence. However, for adults, I consider this movie to be a good demonstration of how God’s redemptive message impacts the lives of real people.

Objectionable Content

Violence: When Brian escapes from prison, a brutal beating and several shootings are shown on-screen. Blood and gore are mild. Brian repeatedly demonstrates aggression toward Ashley by physically holding her still, and he ties her up twice.

Drug Content: several scenes of inhaling meth powder

Sexual Content: several mentions of Brian being guilty of rape / Brian is shown taking a shower once, but only his head and upper chest are visible.

Language: one irreverent exclamation (“God”) / two or three mild obscenities such as “damn” and “cr*p”

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Mild

For more information, see our Christian Film News article.

Official movie site and resources

More information about Brian Nichols: Wikipedia and New Yorker article

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Smith for the release of the movie “Captive,” and I have to say I felt the movie was incredibly well done. I believed what was happening, as if it were happening right before my eyes. Brian Nichols is himself very captivating, and Mr. Oyelowo did an amazing job portraying him. I believe it is captivating to watch Brian Nichols being portrayed on screen, because he was not the average thug trying to get over on someone. He was intelligent and educated. It made me want to know more about him.

If anything is negative about this film, I do wish there was a little more insight into who Brian Nichols truly was. One can’t help but wonder what made him snap and turn so violent when he had never done anything even remotely like that before.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Lisa C., age 46 (USA)
Movie Critics

…Families may feel the film depicts more of Ashley's and Brian's sinfulness than they want to see. But this difficult and dark tale is clearly shown to be a radically redemptive one. …
—Adam R. Holz, Plugged In

…The movie is extremely well directed with intense jeopardy dealing with dark subject matter. …
—Ted Baehr, Movieguide

…Oyelowo and real, gritty faith ensure this Christian film has a captive audience…
—Susan Ellingburg, Crosswalk

…Superb David Oyelowo and Kate Mara deliver embodied performances in “Captive”… The film, directed with verve and tension by Jerry Jameson, is at its best when focusing on Brian, panicked and intense, and Ashley, wan and hardened by life, and the common ground they share. …
—Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times

…a lopsided mix of thriller moments—Mr. Oyelowo might as well be auditioning for an action-movie role—and cooped-up hostage drama. Mr. Jameson finds some unpredictable pressure points in the suspense, but Brian is so erratic that his seeing the light through Ashley’s reading comes almost as an afterthought. Ms. Mara is effectively brittle and then brave…
—Nicolas Rapold, The New York Times

…Despite strong acting, “Captive” lacks insight… But Oyelowo and Mara achieve terrific chemistry. …
—Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

…soft pedals its religious elements. It also fails to generate much tension despite hours spent with a murderous captor and defenseless captive. … [2/4]
—Barbara Vancheri, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

…For a story whose appeal hinges on the saving grace of getting a “purpose-driven life,” this one’s got remarkably little of it. …‘Captive’ is a dull, Lifetime-level drama…
—Sara Stewart, New York Post

…capably directed… A low-wattage thriller, though Oyelowo occasionally spikes the movie's pulse. …
—Rafer Guzmán, Long Island Newsday

…Kate Mara is excellent as the troubled-but-still-keeping-it-together detainee – watch her eyes convey a million fast thoughts. … [2½/4]
—Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail

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