Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Aaron Guzikowski
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Mario Bello, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano
Synopsis: When Keller Dover’s daughter and her friend go missing, he takes matters into his own hands as the police pursue multiple leads and the pressure mounts. But just how far will this desperate father go to protect his family?
After receiving a Best Foreign Film nomination in 2011 for Incendies, French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve makes his American debut with Prisoners — and what a debut it is. Villeneuve crafts a taut, grim, suspenseful thriller that is very atypical Hollywood. He gets great performances out of his cast and the script never lets up, always keeping you guessing and raising plenty of questions of morality. And with the help of acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins, Prisoners is a beautiful movie to look at, a look that definitely sells the grim nature and despair that’s going on. Just an all-around excellent American debut for Villeneuve.
After making his writing debut with last year’s Contraband, Aaron Guzikowski certainly takes a step up with Prisoners. Right from the start the feeling of dread sets in as two daughters are kidnapped and from there it never lets up. Everything in the movie slowly unravels, always keeping you guessing as to what’s going on, even when the mystery of who’s behind it is pretty easy to figure out. Questions of morality, of “how far would you go?”, definitely are there and will be the topic of discussion after seeing it. But while the script is pretty good overall, there’s still some things that aren’t. The ending is very Hollywood and doesn’t fit the overall feel of the movie, there is very little character development, and there’s a religious subtext that never hits the mark or is explored very much.
Prisoners is filled with fantastic performance after fantastic performance. Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal are the leads here, as a father of a missing girl and the detective in charge of finding that said girl, respectively. Jackman’s performance as Keller Dover is one of his best and you can definitely sense the dread and fear that he’s facing. And Gyllenhaal is equally as good as Detective Loki (yes, Loki!), who leads the investigation, as he becomes more than what we first expect. Terrence Howard is also good as the other father of the kidnapped girls, as are Viola Davis and Maria Bello (although they don’t get much to do). To cap the great performances off are Paul Dano as Alex Jones, who doesn’t say much as the creepy suspect who Jackman’s character has his way with, and Melissa Leo as Jones’ aunt.
Johann Johannsson’s score for Prisoners is simple yet totally effective. It definitely adds to the overall eeriness and despair found in the movie.
Prisoners isn’t for the faint of heart; it’s dark, grim and violent. But with some incredible performances, particularly from Jackman and Gyllenhaal, and a script that keeps you on your toes the entire way, Prisoners is a haunting, suspenseful thriller worth checking out.