Friday, September 7, 2012



Thérèse Bourgoigne (Isabelle Huppert) is a French social worker based in the Philippines. Coming back late one night with a box of supplies along with her good old friend Soledad (Rustica Carpio) to a resort in Palawan, they suddenly find themselves getting ushered into a speed boat along with several other hostages by an armed group called the Abu Sayyaf, who plan to hold them captive for ransom. They transfer to another boat, craftily dodge patrolling marines, and go on what seems to be an endless hike in the jungles of Mindanao. This scenario takes more than a year, with a lot of casualties and harrowing experiences along the way.

Captive is dragging and long, but it comes as an advantage for the audience to emulate the tortured psyche of a person in captivity. You paid to see this movie, and you are held captive on your seat inside the theater not because someone is pointing an M-16 or a knife to your neck, but because you are curious as to what is going to happen next to the actors you are watching portraying the roles of hostages with an M-16 or a knife to their neck. It serves as some sort of psychological experiment, and in a way it is effective in that the feeling of being stranded is felt right there and then.

Despite being based on real events that occurred at Dos Palmas in 2001, it could be argued that the facts here could have been compromised for the sake of artistic license. The film is not perfect, but at least gives you an idea about the dynamics involved in this kind of situation: between the hostages and their captors; among the hostages themselves; between the government and those kidnappers; even among the civilians.

We hear incidents like this once in a while on the news, but what we get are bits and pieces of summarized information that rarely have a human face. This movie does not just humanize the issue through the perspective of a hostage portrayed by Huppert, but also gives a glimpse of the other side of the fence, by adding little but sufficient background on some of the kidnappers in order to better understand where they are coming from.

While such acts of terrorism could not be justified, in the end we realize that we are all just pawns to these ideas that bring about these wars and harrowing deeds of inhumanity. How happy would this world be if we could ship all those idiots along with their grand ideas to another planet, so that they could end up kidnapping and killing each other there instead, AWAY FROM THE REST US.

There is this one line that I could never forget, from the great Ronnie Lazaro who plays one of the rebel leaders, which goes a little something like this: “It is not our fault that you are still hostages here. It is the fault of your government!” Well, fvck you, character portrayed by Ronnie Lazaro. If I were a social worker doing something good for my countrymen and you suddenly kidnap me because you need funding for your illegal operations, then screw you. It IS your fault. It is difficult enough to live one’s life with all the petty complications that we get to encounter everyday, and then these social pests come along thinking that they are oh so high and mighty that they have the right to complicate everyone’s personal dramas.

Sorry, I got carried away. Is it not so retarded when people blame their misfortunes on others? Sure enough, the government might have had its shortcomings, but how are we, innocent civilians who are also victims of their idiocy, to be blamed for that? The world does not owe anyone anything, and we do not deserve to be caught in this crossfire of ideologies. It would perhaps be better if these rebels and government officials kidnap each other instead and treat us, civilians, as if we did not exist. But such is the reality of life, someone has to be used as pawns in this never ending game of chess.

Back to the film, there are many shots in which the camera was shaky. It is difficult to watch but somehow gives the illusion that you are a hostage as well, following them from a first-person point of view. Still, if the person to your left suddenly pukes on you, you would know why you should be a bit more understanding. 

As for the support actors, there are many cameos, but the portrayal of Sid Lucero as one of the captors and Angel Aquino as one of the nurses, are among the most memorable.

As for Isabelle Huppert, I have read an interview of hers in which she says something like there is no real character here, but rather anonymous individuals seen as captives. In short, their identities are stripped away because in the end they all play the same role in this game. She has a point. Although one could eventually identify with one of the hostages by virtue of their appearance or what they do in life or whatever, in the end it is still the act itself that is highlighted in the movie. Once again, the humanization of the issue is the important factor here, because we are not just listening to bits of news anymore, but rather watching a depiction that is good enough as an introduction to a fairly complicated national issue.

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