"Captivated" Movie Review

Posted by Jason McIntire | Mar 08, 2013

Do you ever find yourself sitting passively in front of your TV or computer, watching or clicking, but not really learning or doing anything? You click, and look, and feel aimless, and think about how you really should go do something productive. You yawn and think about going to bed, but don't. Instead you keep sitting in front of the screen as if mesmerized by something very interesting... only there isn't anything interesting or worthwhile to hold your attention. I know how this is, because I've been there with my own computer - and I'd hazard a guess that most people reading this have been there too. With the availability of fast-paced news, entertainment, and conversation 24/7, it is all too easy to slip into a state of media-consumption passivity. If this becomes a lifestyle, it can grow into more than a time-waster. It can take on the characteristics of captivity.

Phillip Telfer, a Christian media expert and first-time filmmaker, eloquently addresses the issue of media bondage in his award-winning 2011 documentary: Captivated: Finding Freedom In A Media Captive Culture. If you consume a "normal" amount of media and you want to be comfortably affirmed in that lifestyle, you should leave this video off your watch list, because it will deeply challenge you to reevaluate your media habits. I've watched it twice, and each time I've been inspired to spend more of my time with others and in God's Word, and less sitting in front of a computer screen, waiting to be entertained.

Captivated movie banner


In a world where truth is often placed to the wrong side of "political correctness," I find it refreshing to hear men and women who don't shy away from clearly articulating difficult realities. Such personalities are plentiful in the movie Captivated. In addition to several expert authors and behavioral scientists, Telfer interviews numerous pastors and Christian leaders such as Ray Comfort, Kerby Anderson, Paul Ries, and K.P. Yohannan. Typical in the frankness department is Phil Chalmers, an expert on adolescents who makes so bold as to quote Psalm 11:5 in regard to violent video games. At the same time, Chalmers and the other guests exude such touching love and humility that it would be hard to take offense even if you don't agree with what they're saying. Some parts are actually quite humorous too - and as the saying goes, it's hard to laugh with your arms folded.

Real testimonies

Like any work about an addiction, Captivated features the personal testimonies of people who have struggled with it. My hat is off to these folks for letting their stories be told to the world, with names included. There are, to be sure, worse personal problems than media addiction - but still, it can't be easy to stand in front of a camera and say, "I used to spend hours every day on Farmville" or "My obsession with sports was making my family miserable." In each case the need for change was recognized, and sometimes that change was quite extreme.

Now, these folks are by no means strange, mystical beings from another planet. There's a teenage skateboarder with copious hair; a middle-aged lady who likes to grow flowers; a mechanic who wanted to be a race car driver; a lovely young lady who used music to drown out life. Hearing these perfectly normal people use words like "media fast" puts a completely different perspective on the whole idea.

Hope and a future

In Luke 11:24-26, Jesus warned us about what can happen when something harmful is thrown out, but nothing good comes to replace it. I love the way every testimony and commentary on Captivated has a positive thrust toward something good and worthwhile, and not just away from media. Families testify of getting to know each other for the first time, and finding that spending time together is far more fulfilling than the entertainments they pursued in the past. Young men tell how they have been awakened from a passive stupor to find that there's life to be lived. The sincerity of each testimony is so obvious, and the peace and quiet so alluring, that you might find yourself wanting to unplug your TV before the movie is even over.

Technical excellence

I would be remiss not to mention that Captivated is a first-rate production. It was co-directed by Colin Gunn, the talented Scottish filmmaker behind Indoctrination. Even though the movie runs almost two hours, it's fast-paced and entertaining down to the last detail. (I won't ruin it for you, but don't fast-forward the opening credits!) The music moves the story without distracting. The closing song is actually performed by Phillip Telfer himself.

Even if you're not media-addicted, you should watch this movie

Thanks to wonderful godly parents, I grew up without television.  Media had a minimal role in my childhood, and still has a relatively minimal role in my life today. I have always been grateful for this fact, but never more so than after watching Captivated. This gratitude makes me all the more determined to build on that foundation, and not to let modern media gradually eat it away through computers, smartphones, and the Internet.

The movie also serves as an inspiration to reach out to those who are still wearing the invisible chains of media captivity. Perhaps you don't need the message of Captivated so much, but you probably have friends and family who do - maybe even your own children. There are literally lives at stake here, and this film will only take an hour and forty-five minutes of yours.

And now, I've got to go. It's time to shut down my computer.

Captivated - official website >

Comments (0)

Add a Comment

Allowed tags: <b><i><br>Add a new comment: