'Puzzle' is Well Made, but a Few Pieces are Missing

Based on the film Rompecabezas, Puzzle is one of those little-known independent films that sneaks into theaters with little to no fanfare, although the fact that it is being promoted “from the producer of Little Miss Sunshine” should help it get noticed somewhat. Puzzle is a quiet, little film about a woman who discovers that jigsaw puzzles are the key to changing her life. While the subject matter doesn’t sound all that exciting, the film really isn’t about puzzles but instead about one finding their voice, or so it appears. It’s also a message film that has its own agenda expecting the audience to agree with the choices of the main character and applaud her “brave” behavior. Frankly, it just feels manipulative.

Directed by Marc Turtletaub, Puzzle’s most impactful scene comes within the first few minutes. We see Agnes (Kelly MacDonald) cleaning up the house and they decorating it for a birthday party. Then we see her serving appetizers while being ignored by the guests. …

‘Captive’ – See the Whole Story on DVD

Review of the movie "Captive."
David Oyelowo and Kate Mara (Paramount)
One of the best faith-based films of 2015, Captive, is now available on DVD and if you only seen the movie on the big screen, you haven’t seen it all.

Captive is not an “inspired by true events” movie. It’s a movie based on real events with a subject matter that you won’t normally find in a Christian movie. (What was the last faith-based movie you seen that features a drug abuser as the heroine?) It’s the story of how hardened criminal, Brian Nichols, broke out of the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, killed a bunch of people and then listened to a reading of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life while he held a single mother at gunpoint. That’s it in a nutshell. Praise the Lord.

While the story is unbelievable, the movie is very good. David Oyelowo (The Butler, Selma, A Most Violent Year), a soft-spoken British actor is totally unrecognizable here as Brian Nichols. He’s big, tough and scary. After killing a judge, a court reporter, a sheriff’s deputy and a federal agent, Nichols is on the run. He ends up at the new home of Ashely Smith (Kate Mara from The Martian) in Duluth, Georgia who is trying to make a fresh new start with her life. She is a meth addict going on recovery and doing a terrible time of it. She has to quit fully or she’ll never see her daughter full time. A friend has given her a copy of Warren’s book to help give her strength, but she isn’t interested.

Ashley’s life goes from bad to worse when the unexpected guest barges in with a gun. She immediately knows who he is as she had the news on while she was cleaning the apartment. He ties her up and takes away her cell phone so that he can take a shower and get cleaned up. He covers her face with a towel. (I guess killing people doesn’t bother him but having a stranger see his private parts is another story.) Ashley tries to talk to Nichols, in hopes that it might distract him. After the shower, Nichols is edgy and demands that Ashely give him some of her drugs. Thinking that she might want to poison him, he demands that she take some too, but she decides not to. This makes him really mad.

Hours go by and eventually Nichols asks Ashley to read to him. Of course the only book that is sitting there is The Purpose Driven Life, so she randomly picks sections out for him. While it isn’t exactly like music soothing the savage beast, the reading does make an impact. At first, it just makes him angry, but he later asks her to read more of the book.

Review of the movie "Captive."Now, in case you’re wondering if the story ends with Nichols giving his life to Jesus and saying the sinner’s prayer, it doesn’t. The story doesn’t wrap up so neatly. Some directors would have pushed to make the film more “religious” but Jerry Jameson wanted to keep the story the way it was and didn’t want audiences to get turned off. Instead, as you’ll see in the extra features on the DVD, that he wanted to portray some of the character’s thoughts by facial expressions alone. In one scene Ashley is desperately praying, but because she doesn’t say anything out loud, you can’t tell. It wasn’t until watching the extra feature about the making of the film that I realized what was happening there. For those reasons, I wished that the movie was a little more forthcoming.

The second thing that I was disappointed with the film was the lack of tension. This is a tense story and one that will keep your attention throughout. However, and I blame the music soundtrack for this, there are moments that should feel more stressful than they actually play out. The acting however is excellent.Oyelowo is totally unrecognizable in this role. And Mara does a fine job of displaying all the emotions that this poor woman went through the whole ordeal.

Overall, Captive is an excellent film and makes for a great family movie night as long as your kids are older. The best reason to get the DVD of Captive is for the extra features. There is a short documentary about the making of the film that includes interviews with the stars of the film as well as the real Ashely Smith. Oyelowo is a Christian and shares some of his testimony as well.

The documentary also tells how the makers wanted to do a film based on Warren’s book, but couldn’t come up with a workable script. Then someone came across Smith’s book, Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Hostage Hero and thought that it made for a better story than anything that they could come up with. And that is probably true.


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