Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Rupert Wyatt|
|Music by||Rob Simonsen|
|Edited by||Andrew Groves|
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
|Box office||$4.4 million|
Captive State is a 2019 American science fiction thriller film directed by Rupert Wyatt and co-written by Wyatt and Erica Beeney. The film stars John Goodman, Ashton Sanders, Jonathan Majors, Machine Gun Kelly, and Vera Farmiga, and follows a young man who participates in a conspiracy to rebel against an alien race that has invaded Earth, and enforced strict martial law on all humans. It was released in the United States on March 15, 2019 by Focus Features. It received mixed reviews from critics and grossed $4 million worldwide.
In the present, Chicago is placed under marshal law when extraterrestrials invade across the globe. The Drummond family is attempting to flee the city but every exit is barricaded. After breaking through an unmanned barricade, the car stops inside a tunnel where extraterrestrials are waiting at the other end. Before they could reverse, the aliens attack, vaporizing the father and mother in the front but leaving the two sons alive in the backseats.
Nine years later, the world has capitulated to the invaders and submitted to their governing authority, calling the aliens “The Legislators”, because all subsequent laws and rules of governance come from them. In the years that followed Earth’s surrender, the aliens conscripted humans to build suitable habitats for them far underground; the Chicago habitat located in a region called the “Closed Zone”, walled off from the rest of the city with access only granted to high government officials.
The aliens utilize Earth’s own human resources to police the population, including military and law enforcement, now called “Special Branch” and have placed biological implants in every citizen that act as identification when scanned by surveillance drones or other apparatus. Through propaganda and false narratives that the country is prospering, the aliens have successfully lulled the public into a submissive state.
Gabriel Drummond (Sanders), the younger son from the opening scene, lives in the impoverished neighborhood of Pilsen. He schemes of using a boat he and his friend Jurgis (Kelly) have salvaged to cross Lake Michigan and ostensibly to freedom. Working in a data reclamation center where various storage devices are seized to upload private content to a central server (and thus deliver personal information of citizens to authorities and The Legislators), he lives with his girlfriend Rula (Brewer) and tries to avoid confrontations with the law.
One day at work Gabriel witnesses a coworker attempt to smuggle a memory card out of the building and is subsequently renditioned by government agents, then deported off-world. He is later confronted by Chicago Police Commander William Mulligan (Goodman), who was partners with Gabriel’s father before the invasion. Mulligan is convinced that the resistance group called Phoenix has not been neutralized, contrary to what the public has been told. Gabriel has no information to give and refuses to snitch anyway.
Later, Gabriel meets with a member of Phoenix to sell a hand rolled cigarette he had received from a coworker. The man takes him to Wicker Park, where some time beforehand the resistance had presumably been eliminated and the area cordoned off. Gabriel is directed into one of the buildings where he meets his brother Rafe (Majors), the leader of the resistance, whom he thought had died years earlier. Rafe takes the cigarette and directs Gabriel to leave the area because Phoenix is planning an attack at the upcoming Unity Rally that’s going to be held at Soldier Field. Gabriel leaves and tries to convince Rula to leave the city with him, but she refuses. As he’s leaving their apartment he’s confronted again by Mulligan, who had surveillance on his apartment. Gabriel evades Mulligan and goes underground to hide, but in doing so attracts the attention of alien drones. Using a collar designed to interfere with his I.D. bug, he hides out for an undetermined amount of time.
The cigarette given to Rafe contained a code on the paper that allowed Rafe’s hacker associate to access the Special Branch’s surveillance system and see where certain individuals are, including their target, as well as deployment patterns for security.
Rafe and other Phoenix members follow through with their plan to attack the rally, using an invisible alien explosive device to strike against the alien guests when they arrive. The attack initially appears successful, but the city is immediately locked down with law enforcement swarming the city to locate the attackers. The aliens, angered by the attack, bring in hunters from off-world to seek out the perpetrators. They quickly zero in on Rafe, and his accomplices Anita (Ewald) and Daniel (Daniels). As they attempt to leave town by bus, the hunters arrive at the bus depot and deactivate the buses, boarding each one to find the attackers. Anita is vaporized when she attempts to rush one of the hunters, Daniel ingests cyanide to avoid capture, but Rafe is shot by Mulligan before he can ingest his own and is arrested.
Gabriel eventually emerges from hiding and goes to where his and Jurgis’ boat was kept, only to find it burning. Angry, he takes a gun Jurgis discarded earlier and threatens to shoot an officer during a police raid. Mulligan convinces him not to, and Gabriel is taken into custody where he is shown his brother being tortured for information. Gabriel is convinced by Mulligan to take a clipping from the newspaper’s classified ads that contains a message in hopes of meeting “Number One”, the supposed ring-leader of Phoenix. He’s eventually lead to Jane Doe, a prostitute who runs a brothel in Pilsen. She acknowledges him by name when he arrives, confusing Gabriel, but at that moment a police strike team raids the house and kills Doe.
The subsequent investigation reveals that Doe had bugged her own residence to record conversations with members of Special Branch whom she had serviced, to glean classified information from them. In a debriefing with The Legislators, the tapes reveal that Police Commissioner Eugene Igoe (Dunn) had divulged sensitive information about the aliens arrival to Soldier Field which allowed Phoenix to develop their attack strategy. Igoe, along with Rafe, and many others, are deported off-world and Mulligan, declaring the Chicago threat neutralized, is promoted to Acting Commissioner.
Mulligan later meets with Gabriel privately, with Gabriel lamenting that Rafe’s plan failed. Mulligan, retrieving a box he received from Doe in an encounter earlier in the film, opens it to find a Blackberry phone inside. He removes a memory card which he turns over to Gabriel and suggests that maybe failure was the plan all along. Gabriel takes the card from Mulligan, and reviews the contents at work—a single video depicting his own baby shower years earlier before the invasion, where Jane Doe is revealed to have taught at the same school as Gabriel’s mother and Charles Rittenhouse (Ruck) who later worked as the classifieds editor for the newspaper. It was at the shower that they were introduced to Mulligan. Several members of Phoenix were present at the shower and the video closes with Mulligan leaving a kind message for Gabriel inspiring him to carry the torch of Phoenix. Gabriel deletes the video and destroys the card.
Meanwhile, Mulligan is cleared to go underground and meet with The Legislators in their habitat. As he descends, the same invisible substance that made up the explosive used in the attack at Soldier Field is seen enveloping him, indicating he’s part of the resistance and the plan was orchestrated to get him close enough to deal a fatal blow to The Legislators.
During the credits a map details that the Closed Zone was indeed successfully destroyed, and several other resistance strikes and protests had broken out in cities all over the U.S. and Europe, indicating that the opening exhortation to “spark a match and ignite a war” had come to fruition and humanity was overthrowing their alien oppressors.
- John Goodman as William Mulligan
- Ashton Sanders as Gabriel Drummond
- Jonathan Majors as Rafe Drummond
- Machine Gun Kelly as Jurgis
- Vera Farmiga as Jane Doe
- Alan Ruck as Charles Rittenhouse
- Kevin Dunn as Police Commissioner Eugene Igoe
- David J Height as Master of Ceremonies
- Madeline Brewer as Rula
- Ben Daniels as Daniel
- D. B. Sweeney as Levitt
- Kevin J. O'Connor as Kermode
- KiKi Layne as Carrie
- Marc Grapey as Mayor Ed Lee
- James Ransone as Patrick Ellison
On August 24, 2016, it was announced that Rupert Wyatt would direct a science fiction film titled Captive State from a screenplay he wrote with Erica Beeney. Later that month, it was reported that Participant Media had won a heated bidding war for the rights to the film and would produce alongside Amblin Partners, with Focus Features distributing the film domestically and Entertainment One distributing in various other markets, including Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia.
In November 2016, John Goodman signed to star in the film. The following month, Ashton Sanders joined the cast. Vera Farmiga, Machine Gun Kelly, and newcomer Jonathan Majors joined the cast on January 25, 2017. On February 2, 2017, Kevin Dunn was cast in a supporting role. Madeline Brewer was cast as the love interest of Sanders' character on February 21, 2017. In March 2017, Ben Daniels confirmed his casting via his Twitter account.
Principal photography began on February 15, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. Production was primarily based at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, and a large amount of filming took place in the Lower West Side neighborhood of Pilsen. In March 2017, production spent two days on location in Edgewater, Chicago.
Colson Baker (Machine Gun Kelly) sustained a hairline fracture on set toward the end of filming, reportedly from repeat punches to the chest from an unnamed person playing a police officer. The actor claimed that when he complained to a crew member about the incident, he was told to "suck it up".
Captive State was released in the United States on March 15, 2019 by Focus Features. It was originally scheduled to be released by Focus Features on August 17, 2018, but was pushed to March 29, 2019 before finally being moved up two weeks to its current release date.
In the United States and Canada, Captive State was released alongside Wonder Park and Five Feet Apart, and was projected to gross around $5 million from 2,200 theaters in its opening weekend. The film made $1.3 million on its first day, including $300,000 from Thursday night previews. It debuted to $3.1 million, finishing seventh.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 47% based on 47 reviews, with an average rating of 5.61/10. The website's critical consensus reads "This sci-fi thriller may not necessarily leave viewers in a Captive State, but it offers reasonably diverting alien invasion action with ambitious political undertones." On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 53 out of 100, based on 18 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C–" on an A+ to F scale, and filmgoers at PostTrak gave it 2 out of 5 stars.
In a middling review for The A.V. Club, A.A. Dowd wrote "It's not unreasonable to expect something like excitement out of a story about freedom fighters plotting to take back the planet. Captive State does not clear that fairly low bar." Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a negative review, describing it as "[v]isually murky, choppily edited and lacking both narrative clarity and well-defined characterizations". The Los Angeles Times's Gary Goldstein was also critical of the film, writing: "In Captive State aliens have taken over the world (as they will), but it's the viewers stuck watching this messy, lugubrious sci-fi thriller who may feel like the ones being held captive."
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