4 Stars

One of the worries we have as a society is the level of power governments have. Some places in the world are free for the people, while others are dictatorships. The people of those countries have almost no freedoms, and are at the complete mercy of the rich and powerful that see them as nothing more than pieces of their agendas. They try to run their populace as if they are a business, as apposed to a society. Everyone at some point feels as though they are being oppressed by those above them, whether they actually are or not.

But what if the higher power oppressing us wasn’t human. In the new sci-fi film Captive State, we get a glimpse into a future run by something not of this Earth. In out present day, an alien race arrives and battles us to the point of surrender. Nine years later, in 2027, humanity is under the mercy of our new Legislatures. While some have grown to accept their presence, others see nothing but oppression from a force not welcome in our world.

Gabriel Drummond (Ashton Sanders) is one such rebel, though he manages to keep a low profile, only wishing to escape the city of Chicago in search of more freedom. However, being the brother of a member of a failed insurgent group, he is under constant watch of Officer William Mulligan (John Goodman), who is in charge of keeping ties on rebel activity for the Legislatures. As a new rebel attempt brews in the shadows, the lives of those organizing it and those trying to stop it unfold over the course of one historic day.

It’s hard to take the alien invasion genre in many new directions. Aliens are one of the most popular subjects when telling science fiction stories. For the most part, aliens are often depicted as hostile beings who only intend to wipe us out. Sometimes they come for our natural resources, but mostly they just want to kill us off. Very rarely do these beings want to make peace with us.

But Captive State focuses on a form of alien invasion seen very little in movies, and director Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) explores it in great detail. Using his knack for visual inventiveness, he creates a gloomy world that feels well thought out for a depiction of a world where we are slaves to extraterrestrials. This is further boasted by the fantastic performances of the all-star cast, especially Goodman and Sanders.

Yes, there are times where the story brings up old elements from other stories about aliens and oppressive governments. However, the film uses these clichés to its advantage, taking them and making something new. The world that Wyatt creates feels very detailed, with little elements being mentioned in order to help build the world. Surprisingly, the film almost never feels derivative at any point.

The visual portrayal of the dystopian future is one of the highlights of the movie. Wyatt creates an apocalyptic-type world that feels alive, and the ruins of Chicago help to bring out some of the drama in the story. This helps us, as the audience, to feel the fear the characters have after witnessing hundreds of thousands of lives lost at the mercy of the aliens. There’s something almost beautiful about the destroyed neighborhoods the characters find themselves in as the movie goes along.

It’s almost hard to believe that John Goodman would ever deliver a bad performance. He’s such a great fit for pretty much every one of his roles, and this film is no different. Goodman does a great job portraying all of the personality and emotion that his character requires. His character is a tough-as-nails government official who is in charge of making sure the human race, under the aliens reign, stays in line, and he does a great job pulling that off.

Ashton Sanders also turns out a great performance. We haven’t seen much of him since he played the teenage version of the lead character in Moonlight, which he did a good job at. Now in this film, he’s playing a young man torn between trying to stay in line and finishing the rebellion his family started. He too gives all the emotion that the character requires from him, and proves that he is growing well as an actor. He has the potential to do great things in the future.

Using its obvious clichés to its advantage without ever falling prey to them, and backed by gorgeous visuals and great performances, Captive State offers a unique look at a global alien invasion that we don’t get too often these days. After so many movies where aliens travel millions of lightyears to our planet to do nothing but wipe us out, it feels like a breath of fresh air to have them arrive and enslave us instead.