MOVIE REVIEW: Prisoners

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Prisoners review

Prisoners is the new suspense thriller starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by Dennis Villeneuve.  Villeneuve is best known for writing and directing the fantastic Incendies which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards.  After seeing Prisoners, you will probably want to seek out some of Villeneuve’s earlier films.  Prisoners boasts one of the best casts assembled in quite some time.  Aside from the Jackman and Gyllenhaal, the film stars Paul Dano, Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, and Maria Bello.  Not sure how Villeneuve managed to get that kind of talent in front of the camera, but he definitely puts it to good use.  The other thing worth noting is the incredible script turned in by Aaron Guzikowski.  He deserves recognition for the complex multi-layered story and deep character arcs he brought to life on paper.  The movie just recently premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and was also part of the lineup at the Toronto International Film Festival which just ended this past weekend.

Keller Dover’s (Jackman) worst nightmare has come to life when his daughter Anna and her friend Joy go missing on Thanksgiving Day.  No one knows where they could be, but Keller’s son happened to see a suspicious RV parked on the street earlier in the day.  The call comes into detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) where he is able to track down the RV and apprehend the driver.  The driver is Alex Jones (Dano) who has the mental capacity of a ten year old, but is creepy and suspicious nonetheless.  After passing a lie detector and keeping him in custody for due process, the police are forced to let Alex walk.  Taking the law into his own hands, Keller follows Alex and takes him as his prisoner.  Keller is driven out of his mind to do whatever it takes to bring his daughter home safely.  At the same time, detective Loki is on the hunt and new clues are turning up all over the place.  Does Keller have the right man or is he torturing an innocent person and how far will he go until he reaches his breaking point?

Prisoners is an intense, heart-pounding thrill ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.  It’s probably the creepiest movie I’ve seen since Silence of the Lambs.  This is a difficult film that forces you to ask yourself some pretty tough questions.  What would I do if my child was kidnapped and the only person that might know where they are is walking around the streets as a free man?  The results on screen are gut-wrenching and all of this is really achieved through the amazing performances of the stellar cast.  Hugh Jackman bore his soul for this role and turns in a completely stripped down performance.  With such a meaty role, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this earns him his second Oscar nomination.  Then there is Jake Gyllenhaal who commands attention whenever on screen and in my opinion turns in his best performance to date.  Aside from the two leads, Paul Dano and Melissa Leo are also fantastic.  I’m not sure anyone can play the creepy guy better than Dano.  Truthfully, the entire cast was spot on and that is a direct reflection of Villeneuve’s direction.  He definitely has my attention and I’ll be keeping an eye out for his future work.  The subject matter of Prisoners is very dark which will definitely turn some people away, but if you can stomach it, it’s a must see.  Prisoners is a legitimate best of the year contender.

Grade: A+

Prisoners opens in theaters on Friday, September 20.