Alien invasions are old hat at the movies. Most of them deal with various hostile beings from beyond the Earth coming down, blowing things up, and maybe a major character dies along the way before humans eventually triumph over a technologically superior foe.
The new movie Captive State from director Rupert Wyatt is not that sort of movie. And heck, Watson saw it based off a chat with me, but what exactly did I think?
After a brief prologue showing the confusion in the days of first contact, the story jumps ahead to nine years in the future. The aliens, called “legislators” by some and “roaches” by others, are firmly in charge of the Earth. The gap between the rich and the poor has grown badly, and parts of many major cities are cordoned off into “closed zones” where the aliens are doing…something underground with various human collaborators. I’m not really giving anything away when I say that, either. That’s all given away as text during the opening credits.
As it is, the story seems to follow two different characters. One is a commander in the Chicago PD named William Mulligan (John Goodman). The various police forces of the world are, of course, working for the aliens. On the other side is young Gabriel Drummond (Ashton Sanders). Gabriel’s parents died during the invasion, and his older brother was part of a doomed resistance cell, and Mulligan seems to come over to hassle Gabriel from time to time in part due to the fact Mulligan’s old partner before the invasion was Gabriel’s father. Will Gabriel follow in his family’s footsteps and cause trouble?
So, here’s the thing: this movie is more like a political thriller with elements of a heist movie than anything else. The aliens, who look suitably weird, are mostly in the background. What we see instead is the state of the world they created, the divide between the haves and the have nots, and how people react to such a situation. Now, aside from Goodman’s policeman, most of the characters in this movie are rather shallow, filling plot requirements rather than displaying any sort of distinct personalities. That’s fine, actually. Wyatt can craft some really suspenseful moments, and it’s probably more about the atmosphere and the story than the characters. But this was some pretty smart sci-fi, imaging a what-if scenario where the Earth was completely taken over by hostile forces, positing what those forces would want, how they would get it, and how some rather ordinary people might fight back. The result is a spy film where the spies were working against aliens instead of other humans. If you’re on the right wavelength for this, you should have a good time. I know I did. 9 out of 10 mystery packages.