Opening this weekend is the new drama Prisoners. The film stars a slew of former Oscar nominees: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, and Terrence Howard. Plus Golden Globe nominee Maria Bello and Oscar winner Melissa Leo. It also stars Paul Dano who hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar. Really, he hasn’t? That’s another story though. From the film’s official synopsis:
How far would you go to protect your family? Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is facing every parent’s worst nightmare. His six-year-old daughter, Anna, is missing, together with her young friend, Joy, and as minutes turn to hours, panic sets in. The only lead is a dilapidated RV that had earlier been parked on their street. Heading the investigation, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrests its driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), but a lack of evidence forces his release.
As the police pursue multiple leads and pressure mounts, knowing his child’s life is at stake the frantic Dover decides he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands. But just how far will this desperate father go to protect his family?
I really enjoyed Prisoners. It has its flaws and isn’t close to a perfect film, but it’s a very well done drama. I’ll start with the negatives first, the biggest being, it’s way too long. There’s no need for it to be 153 minutes. That’s 2 and a half hours! If it got tightened up and edited a bit and came in around 2 hours, it would have been a much better film. Sure there’s some plot holes that open up when they dig deeper into the film, but if you just take the film at face value, it’s a solid movie. I talked to other local press people and their biggest complaint was the acting especially Hugh Jackman. They thought he was way over the top and honestly, I really liked him. That leads to the positives to me.
I really liked Jackman in the film. Those complaining must not have liked Sean Penn in Mystic River because I found Jackman’s performance to be very similar. I thought the film itself was very similar to the Oscar winning Mystic River and 1983’s Without a Trace. Or maybe a bit of Gone Baby Gone if you want to stick with Boston films. Jackman is over the top like others say, but of course he is, his daughter is missing, what father wouldn’t be? He’s a religious man dealing with a missing child, that’s going to drive you passed your breaking point. As of right now, I can’t think of a better leading male performance in 2013 for me.
The acting is what makes the film. There’s a scene with Jackman, Terrence Howard and Viola Davis that is just pure acting. Davis gives in to her parental emotions and changes the tone of that scene. You think it will go one way then it completely changes. Bello isn’t much more than the grieving mother trying to make sense of a missing daughter and I didn’t exactly love Gyllenhaal (why did he blink so much?), but then there’s Dano and Melissa Leo.
I’m still kinda shocked that Dano doesn’t have a nomination (Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood anyone?) and when I first saw the trailer for this, I said, is that Paul Dano playing a pedophile? It looks it, you had me at Paul Dano playing a pedophile. I really enjoy his work and he’s great in this. I don’t want to give away too much of his character because trust me, it’s not what you expect.
That brings us to Melissa Leo. Oh Ms. Leo. You won one of your Oscars for The Fighter playing an over the top Mom. You played an over the top politician earlier in the year in Olympus Has Fallen. In this you are, an over the top…well I’ll leave that one blank and let you decide after watching it. Her character is like Dano's, the less you know, the better. Say what you will about her, she’s mastered what she does and earns a lot of awards doing it.
Prisoners might miss the mark on some spots, might not explain enough on others (Jake’s tattoos?), but if you enjoyed the trailer and wanted to see it, you will enjoy it. My sister saw the trailer at the theater a while back and couldn’t wait to see it. She’ll enjoy it. That’s the point right? Make movies for a target audience and then give the audience what they want? That’s what I got out of it. It’s the movie I expected and a movie I enjoyed.
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