Prisoners, the new film from Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Polytechnique), is a top notch nail-biting crime-drama that is as good a theatre as modern Hollywood has the ability to produce.
Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello play the parental figures of the Dover family. They are your average hard-working blue-collar family who begin their story by visiting neighbours Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) for a Thanksgiving dinner. The Franklins and the Dover's each have two children, the youngest of which (Anna and Joy) head out from their home on a November afternoon to play only to mysteriously disappear.
Upon a frantic search, the Franklins and the Dover's suspect the worse. Especially when their elder children tell them of a mysterious camper that was parked just down the street. Police soon find the camper with Alex Jones (Paul Dano) behind the wheel. Alex has the mentality of a 10-year-old and tries fleeing when surrounded by authorities. But when Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) begins to interrogate Alex, he is less convinced that Alex was a part of the abduction. As days pass, Loki and Keller Doller work in opposite directions on the investigation. Keller is convinced that Alex Jones was a part of the abduction and kidnaps the frail and challenged Jones and tortures him for days in an attempt to extract answers. Meanwhile, Detective Loki follows leads that open up possibilities of a crime where multiple persons may be involved. And Oscar nominee Melissa Leo appears in a supporting but pivotal role that will assist in the closure.
The trailer for Prisoners may have audiences hearkening back to Ron Howard's Ransom, but this is hardly the cookie-cutter kidnapping film that Mel Gibson lead back in 1996. Prisoners instead is an engulfing drama. One with a superb performance by lead Hugh Jackman that challenges how far someone would/should go in an effort to locate their stolen child.
The script, from writer Aaron Guzikowski (Contrband) takes audiences down many different paths and emotional rides and Jackman's performance will have you rooting for his quest for answers even though his methods are unorthodox and highly illegal.
The film is gritty and full of realistic characters and situations culminating in a perfect ending that goes 9/10ths of the way in giving its audience full closure. Not as much an edge-of-your seat thriller as it is a Zodiac type of crime drama where the stakes are the lives of two small children.
Denis Villeneuve's last effort, Incendies, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2011. Prisoners shows that he can move solidly into big star larger scaled films with the ease of a well worn slipper. And Prisoners catapults Villeneuve into not just a director to watch, but a director whose work should be awaited with palpable excitement.
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Also, check out the interview with Hugh Jackman