Just as grumbling press hordes left the morning Cannes Festival screening of Atom Egoyan’s main Competition entry “The Captive,” A24 announced that it has acquired U.S. rights –for day-and-date release via DirectTV. The kidnap thriller stars Ryan Reynolds (“The Proposal”) and Mireille Enos (“The Killing”) as the distraught parents of a missing young girl (Alexia Fast), as Rosario Dawson and Scott Speedman are the detectives trying to find her.
One reason that many studios resist Cannes’ siren call is those 8:30 AM press screenings at the Lumiere, which assemble 2281 international media from every continent who can collectively post their instant displeasure with a movie that doesn’t pass muster. One of the great Cannes thrills is to sit through a film that plays well, like “Mr. Turner,” “The Piano” or “Dancer in the Dark,” but coughs and rustling and the inevitable smattering of boos signals the opposite. “The Captive” did not get the slapping seat treatment accorded to utter failures–but the media soon filed their pans.
Cannes’ programmers, led by Thierry Fremaux, tend to return year after year to their narrow list of established auteurs. While Canadian director David Cronenberg, who is in the competition this year with “Maps to the Stars,” pointed out in a recent interview that Cannes does not automatically invite every auteur’s latest film (they turned down “A Dangerous Method,” which was well-regarded by critics), his fellow countryman Egoyan has had eight films in the official selection, five in competition, served on one jury, and won the Grand Prix for “The Sweet Hereafter.” (For his part “Maps to the Stars” marks Cronenberg’s fifth film in the main Competition; he won a special jury prize for “Crash.”)
The Cannes programmers keep their favorite directors close so that they can tap them to add luster and gravitas to the Competition jury. There are countless examples of Cannes putting more challenging films into Un Certain Regard–Daid Michod’s “The Rover” is this year’s example–one reason that the competition sidebar exists, along with Director’s Fortnight.
“The Captive” is a dark time-shifting police procedural set in a wintry landscape as two grieving parents and two dogged detectives track an online child porn ring. Constant camera surveillance viewed on multiple screens is another aspect of the film as the villain (Kevin Durand) keeps a girl prisoner in his home for eight years, using her as a homepage lure for pedophile customers.
Egoyan produced “Foolproof” in 2003, starring Reynolds, who was eager to work with the fellow Canadian. “You want to work for great directors, it doesn’t matter if you are paid or not paid,” Reynolds said at the Cannes press conference. “Adam gives you the ability to be vulnerable. It was a relief and something I needed at the time.” He rebuffed a question about the Green Lantern attending Cannes, and won’t be building his indie cred with this effort.
Egoyan, who is a feted filmmaker in his home country but has not crossed over to wide audiences outside Canada, was haunted by a true story of a child abducted when his mother’s back was momentarily turned at a local neighborhood park. He was excited by “the idea of three couples, the captor and the captive who he stole as a child and now she’s adult, who almost wants marriage which is impossible and perverse, which is unwarranted, and a real marriage that is warranted but they can’t be together and tear each other part, and we see we another couple develop through their work.”
Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (whose critically praised “Enemy” was turned down for last year’s Cannes) was able to turn similarly-themed 2013 “Prisoners” into a memorable, taut, well-acted chiller that warranted a two-hour movie. In this case writer-director Egoyan fails to meet that bar, despite strong acting from Reynolds and Enos.
A24 plans a fall stateside release. “This will work well for DirectTV,” said one A24 exec after reading the critical pans.