Thursday, May 5, 2011

'The Capture' fails because it is well done

The Capture (1950)
Starring: Lew Ayres, Teresa Wright, Victor Jory, Jimmy Hunt, and Barry Kelley
Director: John Sturges
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Oil-man Lin Vanner (Ayres), haunted by guilt after killing a suspected murderer and payroll thief, seeks out the dead man's family (Hunt and Wright) to make amends. He soon discovers that he may have killed an innocent and sets his mind to finding the real thief.

In concept, "The Capture" is interesting enough. It is a modern-day (well... 1930s, which is more modern than the 1870s) Western that deals with the emotional impact killing another human being has on an Everyday Joe who isn't a trained soldier or police officer, as well as the void that person's death leaves for those who love him. The tale is spiced up with some romance, intrigue, drama, and true crime-style action, but it ultimately comes off as less than interesting.

The biggest problem with the film is that its central character, Lin, is just a little too much of an Everyday Joe. Lew Ayres does a fine job of portraying this character... a hard working, honest man who is concerned with all the usual things--earning a living, impressing his boss, looking good to his girlfriend--when his life is thrown into turmoil because of a single snap decision. But Lin is such an Everyday Joe, both because of the way the script is written and Ayers performance, that he is boring. There's a reason they don't make movies and write adventure stories about people like you and me, Dear Reader, it's because we're boring. And Lin is like us, just an Everyday Working Stiff. Lin's ordinariness also makes it very hard to suspend disbelief during the film's third act when he turns hardcore amateur investigator/tough guy in his search for the real thief and peace of mind. In other words, the filmmakers and Ayres do such a good job of portraying Lin as just a normal guy that it ends up working against the entertainment value of the film.

Another problem rests with Teresa Wright's character. Wright struggles mightily to give texture to her, but she can't overcome the fact that the character is written to be a dishrag who can't even pull of a revenge scheme properly when she discovers Lin killed her husband. Then, to make her character even lamer, she becomes the subject of another movie Insta-Romance when she marries Lin is what seems like an overnight conversion from resentment to true love.

Despite the good acting on the part of both Ayres and Wright, the film becomes almost unbearably boring in the middle when it's mostly about them--two characters that are written to be uninteresting. However, viewers who stick with the film are rewarded when things pick up toward the end, even if Lin's transformation into a sort-of tough guy is unbelievable.

"The Capture" isn't a film that's worth seeking out on a stand-alone DVD, but it's harmless filler if you see it in one of those big 20 or more movie multi-packs.

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