Captive State: A Political Thriller Disguised as an Alien Invasion Movie

On its face, Captive State is an alien invasion movie with very few aliens. It takes place in occupied Chicago nine years after Earth surrendered to an invading species of aliens we call The Legislators. Rather than be annihilated, we accepted their rule and they brought world wide peace, increased economic disparity and a world wide drain on natural resources. The movie focuses on Collaborators who help The Legislators maintain control over the population, and dissidents who are trying to fight back without weapons, world wide communications and a world wide monitoring system that would make any authoritarian government and modern day spy green with envy. Forget satellites, every citizen is tagged with tracking systems, we have world wide CCTV and birds are now monitoring people. Those of you looking for alien battles and  special effects blitzes will be disappointed, but captive state is a brilliant political thriller that just happens to be set in a science fiction setting. Its commentary on conspiracy theories, fake news, overreaching government, economic disparity and the responsibility of citizenship was fantastic. Will everyone get it? NO! In fact in the theater I heard two couples leave the theater saying, and I quote, “I don’t get it, you mean he was ______?”

The comparison to today’s political arena was not picked up on by these viewers. If they could not follow the plot the rest of the movie was probpably lost on them. I wanted to weep. I do not think this film is for everyone, but it was an intelligent script with something to say. The actors gave an excellent performance and it was not a whitewashed cast! There was just enough alien action to qualify the movie as a science fiction film and enough drama to keep the mind active. The twist at the end,will suprise some people. It’s well done and it’s message, “you have to choose a side” is on point. “Long as we fight back we got a chance,” sit back and just complain and we deserve what we get.

John Goodman as always does an excellent job playing a weary investigator torn between helping his partners son and hunting down the disidents before they go after The Legislators again.  Jonathan Majors and Ashton Sanders play two brothers with diametric personalities. Rafe the older brother, played by Majors, believes everyone must fight for the good of all. Gabriel plays Ashton who is in it for himself and believes in taking care of your own first! As these three try to negotiate the turmoils which arise as the dissidents plan gets closer and closer to implementation, tensions rise and loyalties are questioned.

SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON!

OK, so here is what I loved about this movie. Just as Zombie movies are used today in college courses to teach about political and cultural movements, this movie can be used to teach multiple subjects. The Legislators political power was a classic example of big government. A fear many people have today in this country. How far is the government impinging into our daily lives, how much control do they have. What do they have the right to monitor? The Legislators used methods we do not have, actual real bugs embedded in our throats that allowed the government to monitor where every citizen went and what they did. But many people worry about the government “bugging” our electronic devices and tracking our movements and activities. The first thing The Legislator did was to shut down the world wide web, cutting of global communication except through them. This cut us off and isolated the world into small pocket communities, except by dial-up. They also monitored all old social media accounts and gathered up all of our visual media to review. Why would they do this do you ask. Imagine what you learn by looking at the thousands of pictures and videos a person puts on their media accounts. You learn what they like, who they know and who they associate with. In this way you can figure out what groups of people may be working together. Intelligence gather at its finest. Paranoid yet? The Legislators also got rid off all weapons, making sure they were the most power full beings on the planet. An argument many NRA and gun rights advocates make against gun control. Oddly, without guns the dissidents are able to take down an entire alien facility. Perfect set up for arguing weather or not gun control legislation works. All of this was in the movie but I did not sit their thinking about it while I watched it, I just enjoyed it.It was not until after I saw the movie that I started thinking about everything. For days comparisons between this movie and our current state of affairs would just pop into my head. Am I thinking to deep into this film. Probably! But that’s the fun of it. Sometimes a movie just gets into you system and makes you think about more than the needle alien or the sound weapon they used. It has an impact.

The Legislators have set themselves apart from humans and limit access to only a chosen few. The only chance the disidents have now is to strike from within. Frontal assault on their facilities in the past has failed miserably. So by spreading conspiracy theories among the collaborators, using false leads and outright fake news they put one of their own into a position of power. A Trojan horse if you will. Their hope is a strike in Chicago will set off a world wide effort against The Legislators around the world. I won’t spoil anymore of the movie, you will just have to watch it.

Go see it now, bring a friend and prepare to discuss what you watched.

Captive State, PG 13
Directed by: Rupert Wyatt
Starring: John Goodman, Ashton Sanders, Jonathan Majors and Vera Farmiga
Release Date: March 15, 2019
Production Company: Participant Media, Amblin Partners
Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i68xCzI406A

Cold Pursuit: Dark Comedy about Fathers and Sons

For starters I almost did not go see this movie. I heard the news about Liam Neeson’s comments and I considered seeing Prodigy instead. But I did my research first, Neeson told a story where he previous held a racist value. Where he was angry after a loved one was raped and wanted revenge.  For a week he wanted to hurt someone based solely on the color of their skin and then he realized the incredible stupidity of his actions and stopped. When you hear the whole story, a very nuanced conversation about a thirty year old incident and the bigotry and racism present in Northern Ireland in the past and today. He discuss the horror of thinking the way he did. By taking a part of the statement out of context you lose the point of the statement and the chance to have a true conversation about racial bias. In this case I don’t believe boycotting Liam Neeson’s films will do any good or serve any purpose but to stop anyone from discussing their thoughts about race for fear of becoming a sound bite that is misunderstood.

Now for my review of Cold Pursuit:

This is a movie about fathers and sons. Liam Neeson plays a Father who looses his son to an apparent heroin over dose. His wife, played by Laura Dern, so readily believes this lie I have to wonder what kind of relationship this family had to begin with. At the begining of the movie Liam Neeson is given the Man of the Year award (or equivalent) for the town of KeHo outside of Denver, Colorado. We see the Husband and wife having dinner and getting ready. They seem like a loving happy couple. The son stopps by and uses the bathroom, but doesn’t stay for dinner, he is just saying hello. Things seem normal and happy. There is no evidence of a strained relationship, so why is the mother so quick to believe her son is a junky and get angry with her husband for not recognizing the signs? Grief may make people do crazy things, but to just immediately accept everyone in you life has let you down, has lied to you? I didn’t get it.

I did however completely understand Liam Neeson’s character! Here is not a slick killer with skills, but just a really angry father who quietly kills his way to the top. In every chapter after the sons death we have another death, though we do not see them all, we begin to wait for each so we can understand how it will lead us to our two main fathers finally meeting in their ultimate confrontation.

Liam’s foil in this fight, played by Tom Bateman, is Trevor “Viking” Calcote. A vicious, controlling drug dealer who cares only about himself and his son. How does he show how he cares about his son? By controlling him. We are introduced to father and son on their way to school. Ryan does not want to go because he is being bullied. Viking tells him “Know what a bully is, it’s a chance to prove your metal.”

Ryan answers, “You think I should hit him? That’s not a good idea.” Viking, “Why” Ryan “Because then I’ll be as stupid as he is.” Just shows the smartest character in the movie is going to be the youngest. Will his father figure out who is killing of his dealers and put a stop the killing before it gets to him or will he become the final victim? Man you really hope so!

A third party, a native American drug gang is brought into the mix, headed by White Bull, our third father. White bull is played by Tom Jackson. He brings into the mix an angry and tired drug lord with nothing to lose. He has made his fortune and now lost his only son. Now only vengeance will satisfy. Will the final confrontation give him justice or death?

The violence in the movie is balanced with wonderfully dark comedic moments that don’t over power it. Though there is nothing ground breaking or new here the movie is good. I cared about the characters, except the mother, and wanted to know what would happen next. I was never surprised but Cold pursuit is worth checking out. It is one of Liam Neeson’s better movies as of late.

Cold Pursuit US Release Date 2/8/2019
Director: Hans Petter Moland
Staring: Liam Neeson, lAura Dern, Micheal Richardson, Tom Bateman, Domienick Lombardozzi and Tom Jackson
Production Company: StudioCanal

Glass, An M. Night Sleeper.

M. Night Shyamalan is a writer and director who became most famous for the move The Sixth Sense (1999). His highly stylized sensibility, slow building dramatic style and ever present twist are for some a crutch used to make his movies seem better than they are. I however like the fact that he takes the time to develop true characters in his films. Most of his films, not everyone, are great (we will forget the last air-bender ever existed), have kept me engaged and made we want to keep watching the screen. They never rely heavily on special effects or gross out scares but instead engage my brain and ask me to care about the characters themselves. How refreshing.

This trend continues with Glass. We are reintroduced to the characters we met in Unbreakable and Split. Mr. Dunn and his son, from unbreakable are hunting the Horde from split. Dunn and his son have formed a team, working together to hunt small time thugs and muggers on the streets after the death of Davids wife. When news of The Hordes killings hit the news Dunn, known  in the News as The Overseer, he began hunting him. Meanwhile The Horde has kidnapped another group of girls, this time four cheerleaders.

Eventually Dunn finds him just as the Horde unleashes the Beast and a fight between these two adversaries ensues. During this seemingly evenly matched battle, they are caught by the police and a mysterious doctor with a strange strobe light machine takes The Beast down. Our two battling super-humans end up in a psychiatric hospital (filmed in Allentown State Hospital, Pennsylvania) under the care of Dr. Elle Staple. Also returning to the cast are Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, the Hordes only surviving victim from Split, Mr Glass’s Mother (Mrs. Price)  played by Charlayne Woodward and of course the esteemed Elijah Price, Mr. Glass played by Samuel L. Jackson who has been in the hospital for the past nineteen years awaiting this very moment. McAvoy displays an amazing range as he brings out glimpses of all twenty four personalities The Horde is purported to have while interacting with both the staff at the Hospital and during sessions with Dr. Staple. Willis gives another understated performance as he begins to doubt himself and question his reality. Sadly Jackson remains comatose for most of the film.

As the final confrontation comes to a head it is not flashy but tense. The end has an inevitable twist that leaves you with more questions than answers. I will admit to a slight drag in the middle of the film and a disconnect in the message. The mysterious society is ill defined, are they government, uber rich, a secret group of highly placed individuals? We are never given answers. Are super-humans bad or good, we must decide ourselves I guess. We, like those at the end of the movie, are just left with the evidence of their existence.

So the true question is, should you see this movie in the theaters? Well? There are some excellent performances and the film is styled to perfection. Each character has a color scheme and is blocked out beautifully. If you love film than yes shell out the money and go enjoy. If you are looking for something that will transport you out of your world for a few hours, than no, pick something else. Do not get me wrong I loved this movie! But many patrons walked out of this theater to take calls. They were distracted, not transported. They were bored in the middle, waiting for something to happen.  This is a movie you can cozy up with in the digital media format. Wait for cable!

Glass US release date 1/8/2019
Director: M.Night Shyamalan
Staring: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Spencer Treat
Production Company: Universal Studios