Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Prisoners - Movie Review

Starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Paul Dano and Melissa Leo.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve.


This slow-burn thriller may be two-and-a-half hours long, but I was never bored nor concerned with the running time.

It features two families (Hugh Jackman & Maria Bello and Viola Davis & Terrence Howard) spending Thanksgiving together.  When a daughter from each disappears, they start to search the neighborhood, but then the teenage son remembers they were playing by a suspicious RV parked down the street, and it's now gone.

It isn't long before the investigative officer Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) locates the RV, and the driver Alex (Paul Dano).  Alex exhibits the mental acumen of a 10-year-old and the police are unable to find enough evidence to keep him. Loki (really wish they'd named him something else) pursues other avenues, but Keller (Jackman) is convinced that Alex knows something, and with each passing day, it means there's less likelihood their girls will be found alive. So he kidnaps Alex and questions him in ways that get more and more medieval.

The movie has a lot to say about vigilante justice, but it's more about the mystery, and while I was able to figure out most of it fairly early (had to wait about half an hour for Loki to notice a clue I noticed right away), it was suspenseful to watch unfold. I can only imagine what David Fincher (Zodiac, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) might have done with this material.

The acting's good all around, but this is career-best work from Jackman, getting that primal, vicious paternal instinct that would give Taken's Bryan Mills pause. (If your brain just hit a speed-bump, that is Liam Neeson's character's name.) I was also really impressed with Gyllenhaal, a man clearly struggling with his own demons that have affected him in odd ways. (He has a very distinct blink, and one where I didn't feel I needed to know why.)

It could have been tighter. I think it could have trimmed minutes here and there but the makers wanted to hang some lanterns on clues to make sure the audience didn't miss them.

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