Police procedurals have been done and done again. While this film doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground, it really shines in the performances of its phenomenal cast. They are given a script with familiar elements and they mold them in a way that makes the film feel fresh and yet still very dark and foreboding. With such a dark and horrific topic like child abduction and murder, a strong cast must be brought in to convey the pain and anguish that such a destructive situation can bring, and in this regard they certainly excelled. Add Denis Villeneuve, a man new to big Hollywood filmdom who brings along with him a sense of small, independent film making, and what you get is a truly sensational film like Prisoners.
With a run time of two hours and thirty minutes this is definitely a lengthy one. I personally love a movie this long, it allows the story to unfold without a sense of being rushed or forced. The director can stay with one scene longer and create a more impactful moment. A longer run time like this can permit actors to play with a scene more and possibly get even more out of it than originally thought possible. Not only all this, I just simply love being at the theaters; it’s an immersive experience and the longer I can be there the happier I am.
We all become, at one time or another, way too comfortable in our way of life and this can sometimes have dire consequences. When two little girls ask their parents to go outside, the parents simply tell them to put on a coat before going out. This proves to be a life altering decision for two families when the girls go missing. This neighborhood has always been a safe place, so when evil slips in it’s a major shock to all involved. Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), the father of little Anna, is not used to sitting idly by and letting others do for him what he thinks he can do better.
When his daughter and his friend’s daughter go missing, listening to the police telling him to let them do their job is pointless. He can find her, he is beyond adamant about this fact and it is his relentless nature that really propels the film forward. Shortly after police are notified of their disappearance a suspect by the name of Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is placed into custody. Once the legal holding period of 48 hours passes with no results, Alex is released. This unfortunate news angers Keller and he reacts in a very harsh and criminal fashion. He kidnaps Alex. His goal is to torture him until he gives up information pertaining to the whereabouts of the girls. As time passes, and details are discovered, it starts looking more and more like Alex might actually be innocent. Keller, however refuses to believe any of it. In his mind Alex did it and that’s all there is to it. Lead Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), who was assigned to the case, must not only juggle the case itself and hopefully find the girls, he must also keep watch over a distraught father who thinks he can do the detective’s work for him. What starts out as a by-the-book missing persons case turns into a case that no one could have ever imagined. Before this day, these people had never seen such a dark, malevolent force like the one that stole two innocent girls from their own neighborhood.
Prisoners definitely has its slow moments, but for the most part it’s extremely engaging and unquestionably disturbing. What I loved the most about this film is the unbiased look it takes at such a terrible situation. Yes, it conveys that kidnapping of little kids is wrong, that goes without saying. But it also shows that the victims can sometimes become the predator, especially if a person’s child is in danger. Not everyone lies down and takes it; sometimes they cross the very line that caused them so much pain in the first place. It is this anger that causes trouble and the film showcases this wonderfully. Not everyone is who they seem to be and it’s the character’s preconceived misconceptions that really create turmoil. The broken father isn’t so innocent, the seemingly sociopathic suspect isn’t necessarily the evil person he is portrayed to be.
So much gets in the way of the one task they all should be focused on and that is finding those two little girls. A lot of clashing between civilian and cop makes for some wonderful performances, specifically with Jackman and Gyllenhaal. These two give the best performances of the film as two men with the same goal but very different means of reaching it. I can say confidently that this is one of the best films of the year with Oscar worthy performances, great direction, a strong script and a very well rounded look at such a dark subject matter. Do not let this one leave the theaters without seeing it! Please see this, it’s worth the 2.5 hours. The summer period of mindless blockbusters is over, now it’s time for the real stories to come forward. This is the start, and it’s with a bang!
Rated R For: disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout
Run Time: 153 minutes
After Credits Scene: None
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello, Viola Davis
Directed By: Denis Villeneuve
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4.5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 4.5/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 5 Nerdskulls