Director: Denis Velleneuve
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, and a whole crap-load of others
Prisoners is one those absolutely awesome thrillers that everyone will forget about in a few years, not unlike another Jake Gyllenhaal effort Zodiac (most of you probably just though “oh yeah, I forgot about Zodiac. That movie was awesome”). One of these movies seems to happen every year, a movie that is surprisingly brilliant with a great cast that makes most filmgoers wonder why they didn’t see it coming. It’s a film that grabs the audience from the beginning and doesn’t let go until the perfect ending.
I could leave it at that and make you feel bad about not already having seen this movie if you haven’t, but this is a really great movie that deserves much more than one paragraph. It’s not only an entertaining film, but a carefully crafted thriller that doesn’t put too much stock in the “whodoneit” aspect a film like this can typically strain. It naturally evolves and feels authentic as the characters struggle with the horrible situation.
That horrible situation, with which most who are reading this will be familiar, is the disappearance of two children during a Thanksgiving get-together between the Dover family, headed by Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and the Birch family, headed by Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard). Needless to say the suspense starts at this point, but unlike many films it doesn’t really let up until the very end.
The film is filled to the brim and doesn’t have very much waste. There are connections and twists to just about every second of the film. The mood is well established as the doom and gloom increases as each day passes throughout the film and a feeling of hopelessness arises each moment the missing children cannot be found. A film of this length (2 hours and 30 minutes) typically tend to drag at least a little bit (or even a whole lot, yes I’m looking at you The Hobbit), but Prisoners felt tight and well-crafted for the length and at no time was I tempted to look at the clock on my phone.
While the direction and structure of the film were indeed brilliant, there really can’t be enough said about the job the cast accomplished with this film. Jake Gyllenhaal may actually be one of the most underappreciated actors of the past decade (I mentioned Zodiac earlier but just think of all the performances that guy has made work; Brokeback Mountain, Jarhead, Source Code just to name a few). He plays the lead detective in charge of finding the children and he really puts just enough into the performance, even if at times he doesn’t seem like an officer who has never failed before.
Hugh Jackman takes a little turn towards his darker side, which he seems to be good at doing (I’ve always thought he was basically made for the Wolverine role) as he is the father who goes to extreme measures to find his daughter. There is a hint of a darker past with his character, however it may have been a little stretch for him to take the drastic measures he takes so quickly in the film. Otherwise it was a job well done on Jackman’s part.
I’m not going to go through each and every performance, the only one I may have had a small issue with is Melissa Leo, but that may just be because I’m sick of her. All of the performers did a pretty incredible job here. In fact this may have been the first performance I truly liked from Paul Dano (before you say what about There Will Be Blood go watch him in that movie one more time. He’s annoying).
This film is an incredibly surprising success to this writer, and I would highly recommend giving it a chance before the slew of upcoming fall films kicks it out of theaters quickly.
My Rating: 4 out of 5