Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, with Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Screenplay: Aaron Guzikowski
Cinematography: Roger Deakins
Running time: 153 mins
Age restriction: 16LV
Out in cinemas today, “Prisoners” is a raw and unflinching case study in human behavior, choice and consequence which makes for compelling though disturbing viewing. The story follows two families whose daughters go missing on Thanksgiving Day and portrays the emotions and lengths a father will go to protect his family.
The first American film from superb Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (“Incendies”, “Polytechnique”) and here he creates a morally complex film that keeps the viewers on the edge of their seats. Even though it clocks in at over two and a half hours long, it is gripping viewing and the pace never lags. At the crux of the film are the questions, What would you do if you are certain of a person's guilt but there's no actual evidence to prove they committed the crime? Would you take the law into your own hands? Yes? No? What if that person's crime was the abduction and possible murder of your only daughter? What would you be willing to do in order to gain a confession? To what lengths would you go to get your child back? Even more compelling are the questions brought on by religious overtones. In a film filled with Christian imagery the question begs: Why is God allowing this to happen? Where is He when little children go missing?
Screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski, who’s last film was the dubious “Contraband”, (Although the script of “Prisoners” predates that) weaves these weighty themes into a maze-like script that carefully unveils one twist after another. Much credit must also go to cinetrographer Roger Deakins, who envelops proceedings in a grey, rain-drenched visual texture. There's a palpable atmosphere to “Prisoners” that's visually expressed through the oppressive grey skies, the constant downpour of rain and a greyscale colour palette. The camera lurks ominously at a distance, leaving you with a sense that something disturbing might just be around the corner and in this film, it frequently is. A key element in building suspense in any drama is the musical score and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s low eerie tones mixed with full symphonic pieces support the sequence of events and help to build anxiety and suspense
The cast is simply brilliant. Hugh Jackman, not known for his subtlety, is filled with an inner rage and unpredictability and sometimes howls his lines in a palpable anguish. Terence Howard, the conscience of the film, grieves not quite as openly as his co-star and provides the only comic relief in a film mostly filled with raw emotion. Maria Bello and Viola Davis as the respective mothers of the girls both deliver riveting performances while Melissa Leo, virtually unrecognisable, is stunning in a supporting role. Paul Dano is chilling as a severely disturbed young man and it’s to his credit that with the least amount of dialogue, he is able to portray his character so effectively that one veers between contempt and sympathy for his character. Jake Gyllenhaal, in his role as the cop that ‘never loses a case’ puts in a finely nuanced performance. Quiet and methodic in his approach with a few scenes that are shocking in their intensity, he once again proves that he’s one of the best actors of his generation
“Prisoners” is about the evil lurking behind white picket fences, the escalating moral compromises that cause a seemingly decent man to do terrible things and the personal cost of revenge. Often graphic and pulling no punches in its disturbing violence, its unflinching nature makes it emotionally searing and won't soon be forgotten anytime soon.
This is a film that leaves you rattled and will have you going home and kissing your kids.
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