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'Captive State' review: John Goodman a highlight in Rupert Wyatt's sci-fi flick

Despite a sometimes muddled plot, Chicago-set dystopia a smart and polished effort.

John Goodman and Ashton Sanders in "Captive State"

John Goodman and Ashton Sanders in "Captive State" Photo Credit: Parrish Lewis / Focus Features

'Captive State' 

Directed by Rupert Wyatt

Starring John Goodman, Ashton Sanders, Jonathan Majors

Rated PG-13

"Captive State" occupies the sort of classic sci-fi dystopian terrain that theatrically released movies seem to have largely ceded to Netflix and the other streaming services.

That makes the experience of going to a multiplex to see the movie, directed by Rupert Wyatt ("Rise of the Planet of the Apes") from an original screenplay he co-wrote with Erica Beeney, a welcome retro phenomenon.

It helps that it's a smart and polished effort, constructing a fully realized world around big ideas about human nature and the way it processes being confronted by a fascist, oppressive force.

And it further affirms the truism that any movie starring John Goodman is, at minimum, worth watching (with the notable exception of "The Flintstones"). That's especially true for one in which he's given a part that allows him to be tough and vulnerable, to run around with a gun and give his all to a hardened law enforcement type with a conscience.

Wyatt depicts a gritty Chicago nine years after an alien invasion has led to the collapse of governments across the world, replaced by an all-powerful group of "legislators" who oversee the enslavement of humanity and the mining of the planet for resources before its eventual abandonment. 

It tracks a nascent rebellion in the Lower West Side's Pilsen neighborhood from the perspective of Gabriel Drummond (Ashton Sanders), the younger brother of leader Rafe (Jonathan Majors). The resistance is probed by Goodman's William Mulligan of the Chicago PD, which like other major government entities now carries out the will of the legislators.

"Captive State" is crisply edited and propulsive, with a minimalist driving score that underlines the urgency and enhances the tension.

If some plot elements feel a bit muddled, they are more than compensated for by the scope and power of Wyatt's vision of a gray, dying city, populated by humans who have largely acquiesced to their subservient status, and the few brave souls who dare to fight back.

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