Lurking within the mess of Captive State is an exciting sci-fi short film, complete with imaginative creature design and a brand of rag-tag human ingenuity against staggering oppression that parallels contemporary social struggles.
Under the guidance of director/co-writer Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes; The Gambler), however, the core concepts are stretched beyond what they can sustain, transforming the promising premise into a busy slog.
Set in a Chicago run by aliens — dubbed “Roaches” by skeptical humans — who’ve taken over Earth and forced its citizens to mine the planet’s natural resources, the film offers poorly-defined rules regarding security and surveillance, both by the Roaches and their human police puppets.
The inconsistencies mute the paranoia of day-to-day life, though a resistance group nonetheless provides scattered sustain bouts of tension as secret communication networks are utilized and carefully conceived plans are enacted.
Within these vague parameters, such talent as John Goodman, Vera Farmiga, and High School Chiron from Moonlight (née Ashton Sanders) inhabit clichés and shells of characters rather than complex individuals, colliding toward a nutty conclusion that’s meant to inspire hope, but is laced with too much confusion to achieve those ends.
Grade: C-minus. Rated PG-13. Now playing at Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Focus Features)