Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Prisoners (2013)

JohnnyTwoToes praises this dark, superbly acted crime thriller. 

Having worked in retail for the last eight years or so, I am always struck by how seemingly good parents and good people seem to lose sight of their children when they enter a store to do a little shopping. Sometimes the children wander off carelessly, yes, but I am amazed at how easily parents seem to get so entranced by the stuff on the shelves that they forget to keep their own children safe. Granted Prisoners (2013) tells the story differently than parents who shop.The idea is the same. Losing a child to an abductor, regardless of the situation is downright terrifying.

Prisoners is not for the squeamish and child abduction is not easy to handle. Trust me when I say this, you will want to hold your children close. Prisoners starts with the very first frame as a general sense of foreboding sets in as the camera slowly zooms in on a tree during a cold, rainy Thanksgiving day. 

The Dover family (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello) and their children walk across the street for a nice Thanksgiving dinner with their dear friends, the Birches (Terence Howard and Viola Davis). After a filling meal the older children plant themselves in front of the television downstairs while the youngest two girls go look for one the girls lost whistle. After a period of time the two little girls have vanished without a trace. The only suspect is a young man (Paul Dano) who owns a camper the girls were seen playing on earlier until the older brother of one of the girls shoos them off. The cop investigating the disappearance of the two girls (one girl from the Dover family and one girl from the Birch family) is a Detective Loki (yes, Loki) played remarkably well by Jake Gyllenhaal

Loki is a determined man who has never failed on a case. Gyllenhaal plays Loki differently than others would have. He is a hero, no doubt but it is referenced in the film he has grown up as a ward of the state for a while in a boys home that was not to pleasant. He is smart but odd, sporting what seems to be prison tatts and facial tics that suggest he is a man dealing with his own pain in life. After, the suspect, Alex Jones (Dano) is released for lack of evidence, Keller Dover (Jackman) takes it upon himself to get Jones to tell him where the little girls are. 

I will not say anything more to ruin it, but let us just say that Dover will not rest until he gets what he needs out of Jones. I do not have kids, so I can't say I know how it would feel to have my child abducted. However, ANYBODY who has children who watches this film will never let their kids out of their sight. Jackman's Keller Dover is an accomplished man with his own contracting business, great family and tells his son, "Pray for the best. Prepare for the worst." Keller is a man who has his basement filled with supplies if the worst happens, except nothing he has could prepare him for what they endure. 

Jackman's performance is superb as a man who is usually in control of his destiny, but now teeters on the brink of despair, madness and of helplessness. He starts to drink, again and when he fills in Franklin to his plans for Jones, chaos seems to ensue. Hugh Jackman is now a established bonafide star, thanks to the X-men franchise, so it was only a matter of time before we saw him REALLY spread his acting chops and he shows it style with Prisoners. There is Oscar talk for him and deservedly so. 

Everyone has their own way of dealing with anguish is this film and the acting by everyone is fantastic. Nothing is oversold and the emotions of rage, anger and hopelessness ring true with each performance. Aaron Guzikowski's script is effectively simple. Mr. Guzikowski knows he does not need to push the material with pointless and gratuitous monologues. He is smart to keep the story as tangible to the viewer as possible, by simply implying this could happen to ANYBODY with children. 

Prisoners is also a very effective thriller as director Denis Villeneuve amps up the tension as the days go by without a single lead on the whereabouts of the girls. We know time is running out for them so for the viewer we too,feel the parents agony. Melissa Leo is chillingly effective as Alex's seemingly long suffering mother who has lost her own children and Johann Johannsson's score is quietly somber which adds to the sense of dread. 

This is a long film (about 2 and 35 minutes) but that will hardly matter, as you will be glued to the screen for every minute and you will be cemented to your seat even to the very last frame. Prisoners is a smart, atmospheric,and riveting film about appreciating who and what you have and how in the blink of an eye it can be taken from you. It does a good job of showing how it affects the relationships with your own family and friends and how it changes everything and everyone around you. It begs the question, "How far would go to get back someone you love?" Hopefully, none of us will ever have to ask that question.Prisoners-**** out of 4


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