Thursday, September 19

Prisoners Review

Dir: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, 
Maria Bello, and Viola Davis

There was a scene in Denis Villeneuve’s “Prisoners” where a grieving father sat helplessly inside his pick-up truck. The reflection of a maze of tree branches blurs his image enough to hide the emotion displayed on his face. This subtle, though riveting, picture portrays a man seemingly in control of his life that is upended and thrown into chaos by the abduction of his child. "Prisoners" capably portrays the consequence of desperate choice and crafts an enthralling and meticulously paced film.

It’s Thanksgiving afternoon and Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and his family are walking through the neighborhood to spend some time with friends. As Keller, an over prepared survivalist, looks for his daughter Anna and her friend Joy, he realizes after searching that they are missing. A detective named Loki, an overzealous type, leads the investigation and is directed towards a mysterious RV that was lingering around the community. A young man (Paul Dano), who was driving the RV, is the primary suspect but is released after lack of evidence is found. Keller, knowing wholeheartedly that his daughter is alive, kidnaps the young man and tortures him for information. Investigating every tip and person of interest, including Keller, Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) uncovers a mystery that holds more past secrets than expected.

There was an unsettling quality established early on in this film. The opening scene was a slow camera pull away in the middle of the thicket that revealed a deer being hunted by Keller and his son. The “stalking” perspective was utilized subtly throughout the film with the same dominating presence. In one disturbing instance the two young girls climbed onto the parked RV only to be watched from a small window in the same ominous manner. Cinematographer Roger A. Deakins emphasized the gloom of winter, accentuating the grey and blue colors that compliment the somber and mysterious layers of the dread filled narrative.

The script, written by Aaron Guzikowski, was a crime investigation tale but also a character study. The mysterious qualities were artfully balanced, giving the viewer enough clues but also kept certain elements hidden without any hint of explanation. This aspect of the narrative was where Deakins’s photography shined, framing objects and characters with meticulous form. The character study, that of which tries to detail pain, sorrow, despair, anger, and numerous other emotions, was successful in moments but also complaisant. While Jackman and Gyllenhaal both gave solid, persuasive performances the capable skills of the remaining cast, some of whom were also experiencing a wide range of emotions, were only touched upon. Though the minor lack of development was only realized in the final act when the narrative shifts from character perspective to the discovering conclusion of the unknown.

 “Prisoners” was the kind of film one could get lost in. Denis Villeneuve is a talented director and proves it throughout this film. The pacing of the film was in an almost time halted state, allowing the search for the two missing girls to feel desperate and hopelessly inevitable. Villeneuve displayed the powerless effect of the situation while showing the consequence of impetuous choice and deliberate indecision those inundated with emotions can make. There were some predictable moments and the slow moving style of the story made the film run just a little long, however the film was still engrossing and will keep your attention captured till the end.

Monte’s Rating
4.00 out of 5.00

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