Prisoners review

Denis Villeneuve
Hugh Jackman
Jake Gyllenhaal
Viola Davis
Terrence Howard
Paul Dano
Rated: R

Hugh Jackman didn’t need any claws to dish out some pain this time around.

“Prisoners” is a movie that takes the audience on a suspenseful and quite uncomfortable ride. Hugh Jackman plays Keller Dover, a midwestern, middle class father who has brought his family over to a friend’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving.

During the festivities, Keller and his friend Franklin’s (Howard) daughters go outside to play before dinner. However, they end up not coming back.

After some investigating, a potential suspect is found in a man named Alex (Dano). The problem is, after an examination of the evidence, Alex is found to have no connection and is released.

To try and find the actual culprit, Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal), who has a great track record in solving cases, takes up the task of finding the two missing girls and who took them. Keller believes that the police aren’t working fast enough, though, and begins to cross many lines as he takes the law into his own hands.
“Prisoners” works in a very similar way to the 2010 film “The American” with George Clooney. The 2010 picture was a very long, slow burning type of movie that gradually built up the tension.

The same can be said here with “Prisoners,” the movie is well over two hours long, however, because of the masterful story telling which builds up the suspense, the length of the movie is never really felt and as an audience member, I was on the edge of my seat for much of the flick.

Allowing the film to have such an extended run time is the story, which diverts into two separate, and interesting paths. On one there is Hugh Jackman’s character’s arc, in which he crosses many moral thresholds as he eventually tortures someone for answers.

The other follows Gyllenhaal’s character working constantly to find the missing children, which creates an interesting mystery to observe. The two intertwine to create a thrilling tale.

The most powerful performance comes from Gyllenhaal, who is just about perfect here in the movie as an overworked, stressed out detective. Gyllenhaal has a lot to work with here, as the story his character is apart of is indeed strong, and he completely owns every bit of it.

Hugh Jackman as the father was also great to watch. Jackmans’ facial expression alone display a man who, for the most part, is completely broken and shattered. In the scenes where he is doing terrible acts to find his children, the performance becomes legitimately frightening to watch.

Together, Gyllenhaal and Jackman knock it out of the park. When they are on screen together, the tension can be felt throughout the theater.

When it came to the supporting cast, the performances are fair, but not amazing. Terrence Howard and Viola Davis are fine in the film, yet don’t make much of an impact. An unrecognizable Melissa Leo does make a nice addition to the cast, though.

Director Denis Villeneuve captures so many great moments with how he filmed scenes. The combined efforts of the cinematography and the actors on screen make for some of the most intense moments that I’ve seen in a while.

“Prisoners” works on just about every level that a person could ask for in a dark drama. Negatives are few and far in-between, not all of the cast is super amazing and there is a “tell all” speech by the antagonist of the film towards the end which feels a bit out of place.

However, the movie excels at just about everything. From its characters, to the stories it tells and the filming styles used to bring it to life, “Prisoners” is by far one of 2013’s best movies. This slow cooker of a thriller gets a 5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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