How far would you go to protect a loved one? Would you compromise your morals to make sure your child returned home safely? Director Denis Villeneve’s (2011’s Incendies) Prisoners is a dark and intense look on how a major loss violently disrupts us and how it can challenge our values.
It’s Thanksgiving in a quiet town in Pennsylvania. Keller (Hugh Jackman) and Gracie Dover (Maria Bello) along with their children Ralph (Dylan Minnette) and Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) walk over to their friends’ house for dinner. Franklin (Terrence Howard) and Nancy Birch (Viola Davis) greet the Dovers with hugs and kisses and six-year-old Anna can’t wait to play with Eliza Birch (Zoe Soul). After dinner, Anna wants to head back home to find the prized whistle her father gave her and she takes Eliza along. After a little while, the girls don’t return home and both families start to panic.
The only clue in this missing case is a mysterious RV that was parked on the street earlier in the day. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) heads the case and questions a young man with the IQ of a 10-year-old named Alex (Paul Dano), who was found in the RV. With no signs of the girls having ever been in the RV, Loki has to let Alex return home to his aunt (Melissa Leo). However Keller is so convinced that Alex had something to do with the kidnapping that he takes matters into his own hands.
The entire cast is fantastic and the acting is masterful on all parts. Hugh Jackman is excellent in a role we rarely get to see him in. As the troubled and worried father, who is desperate to find his daughter and bring her home, he handles the situation like any father would: he panics. Jackman is brilliant in the role because although he doesn’t handle the situation in the best way, actually one of the worst ways imaginable, we still feel for him and understand how deeply he wants to hero and bring his daughter back.
Jake Gyllenhaal is wonderful in everything. He was especially wonderful in last year’s End of Watch and even more charismatic in 2010’s Love and Other Drugs. I loved seeing him as the rough around the edges detective in this film. Pay close attention to the little ticks he develops for this character, especially the nervous eye blinking.
Paul Dano is perfect in everything. His character only has 10 or less lines in this entire film and he’s amazing in the role. Yes, he’s just great in everything and makes every film all the better.
The film is photographed impeccably by Roger Deakins (2012’s Skyfall), and feels like it’s a mixture between David Fincher’s unique touch and the Coen Brothers’ stylized filmography. Pay close attention to the climatic scene that involves Jackman’s character and the villain. It has that scary movie-thriller type feeling.
At two hours and 23 minutes long, Prisoners isn’t the type of film you watch for a relaxing Saturday matinee. It earns your time, but is layers deep and will make your mind work and turn the entire time. But trust me when I say the work is worth it!
Prisoners is more intense than several horror movies that have come out this year, includes amazing performances by Jackman and Gyllenhaal and is layers deep in mystery and suspense.