Director: Denis Villeneuve
Two little girls are kidnapped and one of them is Keller Dover's (Hugh Jackman) daughter. He will stop at nothing to find her and he’ll even go as far as becoming a monster himself. At the same time, resourceful Police Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is on the case trying to bring the girls home before it is too late. Get ready for a downbeat ride!
I’m late to the party with this one, but like I always say better late than never! PRISONERS is French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s first foray into the Hollywood playpen and it had a lot of hype tagged to it. Everybody I know kept telling me it was a masterpiece, so I went in there expecting just that; a thriller that would match SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and SEVEN on my top notch list. And thankfully that’s exactly what I got.
I gotta say it, no film this year had me on the edge of my seat, antsy as to what was gonna happen next as much as Prisoners did. Talk about grabbing me by the lapel, slapping me around, giving me some slack and then pulling me back in for more healthy back-hands. This one hurt! Pretty much everything about Prisoners greased me right! The script was bold and ambitious, filled with symbolism and potent religious subtext. On one end, it acted as puzzle and whodunit filled with twists and turn. You bet that my single healthy brain cell was working overtime trying to crack the case before the heroes in the movie did. I was mucho engaged! It was silly! And on the other end, the film was a visceral character study, one that wasn’t black and white but draped in gripping shades of grey. This was the performance of Hugh Jackman’s career so far in my useless opinion! The lad was simply riveting to watch! The manner in which he conveyed the pain, frustration, anger and turmoil within his character's psyche hit me hard! And although good old Dover went to some pretty dark and twisted places, I always felt for the dude and he never lost my sympathy. That in itself was a statement as to how well rounded and "human" Jackman’s performance was.
Jake Gyllenhaal gave a powerhouse show too as a Police Detective with a shady past (hinted via his many tattoos), nervous ticks galore and a somewhat emotionally detached demeanor when it came to dealing with the case and the people it affected . Gyllenhaal exuded a commanding presence and owned the screen every time he surfaced. The fact that his character was so enigmatic definitely made him more compelling to clock. Terence Howard, Maria Bello, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo and Viola Davis were also solid in terms of the screen time they were given. A Grade A cast if I've ever seen one! Finally the audio/visual aesthetics here blew me the F away! If it wasn’t Villeneuve’s slow and engrossing camera movements, it was the cold and dread filled cinematography hooking me in. Be it in a rainy or snowy setting, the mood here was akin to the one found in a graveyard: depressing. On top of that, the dour imagery was superbly backed up by Johann Johannsson tragic score (all about that violin…ouch). I am listening to it right now as I vomit this and even on its own it packs a wallop! Not something to listen to if you’re down and out teaching a Whiskey bottle some lessons…or maybe it’s the perfect thing to listen to, depends how you roll, but I digress…
So any drawbacks? Well, I did feel that this 153 minutes flick could have shaved off 10 or 15 minutes from its running time, specially within its middle section. But no biggie as I was engaged from beginning to end. My main peeve though had to do with the female characters and how little room they were given to shine. Although Viola Davis role at least had one meaty scene to chew on, the crazy talented Maria Bello was fairly wasted here, with her character spending the bulk of the running time in bed, sedated. I wished they would have given the role and the actress more to do. Lastly, I understood what the abrupt ending meant but that didn’t mean it was satisfying from an audience member point of view. After giving so much of myself to the film and its characters, the BANG its over ploy didn’t work for me. I left the theatre a tad disappointed. I would have loved to have SEEN what happened next as opposed to having it implied, that would’ve brought me full closure, but hey that’s just me!
All in all, it’s been a while since Hollywood has put out such a tip-top thriller; one that worked as a mystery, a character study, a moving drama and an audio/visual feast! Loved it! With no horror films on the big screen this weekend, I recommend you check Prisoners out if you haven’t already! One of the best movies of the year! Arrow sings! “Not a prisoner, I'm a free man, and my blood is my own now. Don't care, where the past was, I know where I'm going!”
We get cringe inducing scenes of torture, viscous beatings and bloody gun shot wounds.
T & A
Hugh Jackman wants his f-ing daughter back... no time for love Doctor Jones!
Prisoners was an engagingly written, superbly acted and tension laced thriller that had me by the throat throughout. Hugh Jackman gave the performance of his career and Jake Gyllenhaal has never been better! Moreover, the picture was visually arresting, with dread filled atmosphere oozing off every frame, while the score by Johann Johannsson masterfully upped the emotional content of the story! I recently polished a script to that score and my eyes were watery; yup, I was in full bitch mode! Kudos! Granted the film was maybe 10-15 minutes too long and the female characters could have been more fleshed out and given more to do, but on the whole it‘s been a while since a movie moved me so much and had me in its grasp so tightly and for that I am grateful. Prisoners will definitely make my Top 10 of 2013 year list! Will it make yours? See it and find out!
The screenplay was written by Aaron Guzikowski who also penned the Mark Whalberg actionner Contraband (2012).
Leonardo DiCaprio was attached at some point to the film, but dropped out.
Bryan Singer and Antoine Fuqua were at some point slated to direct.