Is Captive State more captivating because of its realism?

captive state movie releasing in cinemas in abu dhabi

People love going to the movies to ‘escape reality.’ But we often find that on the screen, as with elsewhere, art imitates life.

We’re safe with science fiction though right? That’s true escapism. Through the mechanism of otherworldly elements – things like aliens, dystopian futures, superpowers and sarcastic robot sidekicks – the narratives keep enough degrees of separation, for us to see sci-fi as offering an alternate universe.

Not according to Tobias Buckell, author of the best-selling sci-fi book Halo: The Cole Protocol, who believes that science fiction is an embellished but real reflection of the times.

“I think science fiction should engage with the future. That doesn’t mean predict it, though
that’s often the common perception,” he told

“We also warn about the future. Beg you not to go down a certain path. Warn incessantly about horrible possible futures. Wonder if a certain future would be interesting. Dream about a certain future.

Photo: Focus Features

“Quite often though, science fiction is really about us today, and by saying ‘if this goes on’ we are critiquing something based on a starting point that is here and now. By positing the future, we can then point to consequences and point a light further down the path.”

If we scratch the surface, we can see the science coming through the fiction.

This logic weighs heavily on Captive State – the sci-fi movie releasing across UAE theatres on Thursday 11th April.

In the film, alien invaders enslave the world’s governments under the pretence of forging some sort of unity, for a greater good. However the extra-terrestrial overlords, referred to as ‘Legislators’, are stripping Earth of its resources, which is leading to drastic climate change. Sound familiar?

To ensure control over humans, the aliens bestow power to a privileged few, causing disputes among team earthling. This antagonistic environment leads a young man named Gabriel (Ashton Sanders) and a Chicago cop (John Goodman) to form an unlikely partnership and join the human rebellion.

“It’s the ‘rage against the machine’ story,” director Rupert Wyatt told Inverse. “It’s about what it means to be under occupation, and the moral obligations or choices one has to make when they’re put in that place of compromise at the risk of family, career, livelihood. What is it that makes those who choose to take a stand? I’ve long been fascinated by that.”

Photo: Focus Features

While some surmised that it’s a reference to America’s current political climate, the film’s themes of corruption, revolt and devastation of our environment are being played out in many corners of the world.

“I will say, [this film] is very much about our environment, our planet,” Wyatt noted.

“The notion that protecting this planet, and not falling prey to the idea that big businesses and capitalism should pursue our interests, that is really important.”

And what better way to make a strong political and environmental statement than by using sci-fi to stir the imagination and overstate the obvious in the context of a fictional universe?

“I like films that ask questions of our political times,” Wyatt pointed out.

“Sci-fi is great because it allows you to hold a mirror up to the society we live in, and at the same time, give a degree of separation that allows a very large audience to come at it from many perspectives.

“I think that’s what makes it a relevant genre in today’s storytelling, and very useful to tell stories that ask pertinent questions about who we are.”

Technology, interstellar invasions and alternate dimensions can give dramatic staging and enthralling plot points, but it’s the underlying human interactions and relationships that lead us to emote with what’s going on, on-screen.

The grand themes of love, betrayal, justice, revenge and good versus evil have been with us for as long as civilization has had campfires to tell stories around. We cannot escape ourselves.

Also starring: Jonathan Majors, Vera Farmiga, Alan Ruck and Kevin Dunn
Rating: PG15



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