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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Prisoners | Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Terence Howard, Maria Bello, Viola Davis | Review

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4sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is GOOD Judy Thorburn

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4lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is GOOD

 

Prisoners

Child abduction and the devastating consequences it takes on two families and the cop on the case is the focus of French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve's (2010's Oscar nominated Incindies) English language debut.

Working from a script by Aaron Guzikowski, the filmmaker delivers a gripping, suspenseful thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.

It is a parent's worst nightmare. Yet, one can't help but wonder what any one of us would and how far we would go to save our child from the grip of an abductor.

Hugh Jackman, who received an Oscar nomination for his emotionally charged role in last year's Les Miserables, stretches his acting chops like never before to deliver the best performance of his career.  In Prisoners, he magnificently portrays a deeply anguished father who takes matters into his own hands when a suspect he believes is responsible for his daughter's disappearance is freed from police custody due to lack of evidence.

The setting is a suburban Pennsylvania community. The atmosphere, beautifully shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins,is dark and gloomy, befitting what is about to unfold. Keller Dover (Jackman) along with his wife Grace (Maria Bello) and their kids go over to their friends and neighbors, the Birch's (Viola Davis and Terrance Howard) to share an enjoyable Thanksgiving when Keller discovers each of their preteen daughters, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) and Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons) have suddenly disappeared without a trace after going outside and playing in front of a parked SUV. A devout Christian and survivalist who hopes for the best but is prepared for the worst, Keller was never prepared for something so horrific that would push him over the edge.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays the cop on the case, Detective Loki, whose personal history is never revealed.  He has an occasional facial tic and a tattoo on his neck and each of his fingers, so who knows what baggage he brings to the table. What we do learn is that Loki is bound by the law, proceeds accordingly, and has solved every case he has been on. Although a stark contrast to Jackman's ferocious, out of control father who always promised to keep his family safe, Gyllenhaal is equally superb as the conscientious, determined detective eager to solve this difficult case.

It is said in desperate times, people do desperate things. Regardless of Loki's success on the job, Keller, a grief stricken father refuses to stand by the sidelines and let the detective take charge of the investigation as time is ticking away.  Meanwhile, Grace (Maria Bello) is unable to deal with her daughter's abduction and sinks into a deep depression.

After seeing Alex Jones (Paul Dano) a mentally challenged young man, let go and able to return to the home he shares with his Aunt (Melissa Leo in a grey wig and aged makeup) the enraged, desperate Keller decides to track down, kidnap and subject Alex to torture as the only hope to get him to reveal where the girls are. These scenes are  chilling, brutal,disturbing, and not easy to watch.

Meanwhile as Keller attempts to uncover the truth, several other suspicious characters, aka red herrings, are interrogated and threads in the plot eventually tie them together.

To use a quote from Winston Churchill in a radio broadcast during World War 2. Referring to Russia's actions. “It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, but perhaps there is key,” he said.

That's the perfect way to describe this complicated, yet well crafted story in which there are complex characters driven by their own mindset and belief systems. That said, there are underlying issues of guilt, innocence, moral conflicts and how God and religion plays a role.

The entire cast is excellent. However, the wonderful Bello, Davis and Howard aren't given nearly enough screen time as the main focus switches between Jackson and Gyllenhaal's ongoing actions to find the missing children.

This is a tragic story where the children are not the only victims of a heinous crime. At the end, when the key is found to unlock the mystery, we are still left with some unanswered questions.

Regardless, Prisoners is gripping and intense, with interesting twists and Oscar worthy performances by the two lead actors. Be prepared to have your attention grabbed, get pulled in and willingly held captive for over two and a half hours. When it comes to a movie experience that is a good thing.

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