WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Captive State, in theaters now.
Captive State tricks you into thinking it's a massive action-packed alien invasion movie, but that's not what director Rupert Wyatt created. Instead, the extraterrestrial threat takes a backseat to a politically charged movie about insurgents standing up against a totalitarian regime with a twist ending.
What is most interesting about the ending is nothing is as it seems. Wyatt created an ending that infers what happens rather than show it, believing the audience will understand from hints left throughout the movie. Here is a look at the ending and what it means for three of the major characters.
William Mulligan is the Film's Trojan Horse
Captive State ends with William Mulligan going to visit his new bosses, the aliens, in their personal Safe Zone. He spent the entire movie as the antagonist, a police officer determined to stop the uprising and protect the aliens at all costs, and they reward him with a promotion to Commander.
He orders the execution of a prostitute he swore to protect earlier in the film, seeming to care for her, but not holding back when he has her shot and killed after learning she was Number One, aka the leader of the insurgency. However, it's all a ruse, a massive sacrifice featuring a Trojan Horse, and Mulligan is actually an integral part of the insurgency.
Nothing is as it seems. The insurgents knew they needed to light a match, forcing people to fight back before its too late. To accomplish this, they sacrificed their own lives. This includes Mulligan.
The final scene in the movie hints at what the plan is. Mulligan, as the new commissioner, gains access to the Safe Zone. As he heads there, a blue glow rises from his body -- the same glow that showed up earlier on the suicide bomber during the attack at the football stadium. Mulligan is the true mole, a walking bomb wearing undetectable alien tech. A literal Trojan Horse.
Captive State never shows the outcome of this moment, ending with the idea that he was a sacrifice, willing to die in order to give humans the strength to start fighting back.
A Second Trojan Horse?
Captive Force is about cogs in a machine set into motion to try to force a revolution against the aliens. Rafe, who everyone thought died in the last attempted insurrection, is revealed to be alive, just another in the machine of the revolution. Through the movie, characters pop in and out, playing their role. They're all important in the attempt to overthrow the aliens so the revolution can begin, even if you cannot be bothered to remember most of their names.
In the climax, the police, led by Mulligan, capture and torture Rafe before deporting him off the planet. When the very end reveals Mulligan is a walking bomb with the alien tech attached to him, it brings up an interesting question: Is Rafe a second Trojan Horse?
There's one line in particular that seems very important when looking back on Captive State. Mulligan asks Gabriel if the plan was meant to fail. Mulligan plans to sacrifice his own life to strike the aliens at their heart, after all. He's part of the resistance, and since he is the man who deported Rafe off Earth, is Rafe a second Trojan Horse, taking the fight to where the prisoners are kept?
As Mulligan tells Gabriel, maybe the point of the initial attack plan was to fail, and in in that, they succeeded.
Gabriel's Future Role
Once Gabriel betrays everyone involved in the insurgency and returns to work, Mulligan gives him a memory card. Gabriel's job under the new regime is to destroy all sources of digital memories from phones and hard drives, so he has access to view the contents of this piece of important media. He watches a video of his own baby shower and realizes everyone involved with the insurrection was friends with his parents -- including Mulligan.
He loses everyone by the end of the movie, but Mulligan leaves him with a gift in the form of the truth, allowing Gabriel to finally see behind the curtain. Despite what it may seem, the plan isn't a failure and the war is just beginning. As the one left behind, it is Gabriel that will take his brother's place on Earth as the leader of the new revolution.
Captive State, directed by Rupert Wyatt, stars John Goodman, Vera Farmiga, Ashton Sanders, Jonathan Majors, Alan Ruck, Kevin Dunn, Machine Gun Kelly and Colson Baker.