Netflix’s doc collection ‘Captive’ crisscrosses the globe to search out tales of ransoms, jail riots, and Somali pirates
Captive, Netflix’s new hostage-themed documentary collection, is a serpentine creature. Out there tomorrow (December 9), its trajectories are as unpredictable as you’d count on, decided as they’re by people in life-or-death conditions. “The Cola Kidnap,” the story of the 1991 abduction of Rio de Janeiro Coca-Cola plant supervisor Corinne Coffin, twists and turns because the sufferer suffers a stroke — and the ringleader of her kidnapping, Ronaldo Monteiro, offers her a teddy bear as an indication of sympathy. The story defies our expectations once more as her abductor reveals the key to his success: the 10 years he spent within the army as an elite soldier. Even for an expert ransom-collector like Monteiro, the whims of destiny and the idiosyncrasies of human nature just about assure surprises.
Like a snake within the grass, Captive solely sees what’s in entrance of it. That present-tense mode works fairly nicely with “The Cola Kidnap,” which flits between the POVs of abductor and abductee. We get a reasonably good sense of who Coffin and Monteiro are, not less than in relation to the kidnapping: She’s the financially cosseted however notably powerful Brazil-born daughter of Individuals; he’s the previous wunderkind who examined out of native favela colleges, however whose jealousy of prosperous friends led him to violent crime. Title playing cards marking the passage of time (Day 1, Day four, and so forth.) guarantee a measured drip of knowledge — therefore the voluptuous curves within the narrative. That Monteiro talks to the digital camera frankly and calmly with a smile, wanting materially and spiritually snug, is as suspenseful because the ransom negotiations, which begin at $20 million and quickly fall in worth. How may he be so comfortable?
The reply is heartening; Captive’s artistic group clearly selected their topics rigorously. Netflix solely supplied two episodes for assessment, however the different six installments will reportedly chronicle occasions in six different international locations, together with Yemen and Chechnya, and contain Muslim extremists, militant separatists, and Somali pirates. Given how a lot the present depends on documentary’s most conventional strategies — speaking heads, information footage, archival movies, and recreations — excessive manufacturing values imply that Captive appears about as nice as it will possibly with the supplies it’s bought.
And but the third installment, “Lucasville,” demonstrates how the collection’s concentrate on the here-and-now hobbles its try to inform a extra resonant story. As a lot as I’m in opposition to the bloating of TV, particularly on Netflix, this account of the 1993 jail riot in Lucasville, Ohio, wants a feature-length working time to supply greater than the timeline provided right here. (Hell, if Ryan Murphy needs to proceed revisiting the previous with American Crime Story, this story of inmates taking eight jail guards hostage may greater than fill a season.)
Not like “The Cola Kidnap,” the account of the massacre of a riot consists of interviews with the jail’s warden, a number of correctional officers, a number of inmates, and extra. It’s onerous to get a way of any of the interviewees as individuals, and even archetypes. Some rioters find yourself on demise row after the rebellion, probably wrongly — however the episode glosses over that grave injustice. And whereas “Lucasville” has its share of bombshells — the captors’ constructing bombs and a maze to throw off riot police, the conversion to Islam by one of many hostages — the impact just isn’t in contrast to studying a Wikipedia entry: a practice of info with little rationalization of the importance of every prevalence. The social cancers of mass incarceration and racism within the prison justice system — each of which clearly performed a component within the riot — are fully ignored. Such are the restrictions of Captive’s on-the-ground storytelling: Generally we’d like an aerial view.