‘Prisoners’ Dark and Intense

Prisoners2013Poster Well, it is that time of the year, ladies and gentlemen. The summer movie season is over and as we leave the superheroes and animated monsters behind we look to more an important thing: Oscar season. In “Prisoners”, Hugh Jackman plays Keller Dover, a suburban father whose daughter and her friend go missing. When the police, led by a detective played by Jake Gyllenhaal, struggle to find leads, Dover takes matters into his own hands. Denis Villeneuve directs.

            Jackman has had solid year. He was nominated for his first Oscar for “Les Misérables” and then this past summer showed in “Wolverine” that even at age 44 he is really ripped (you could even say he is a jacked-man! …ok, I’m sorry, that was pretty awful). But in “Prisoners” he shows off something else: his incredible range as an actor. Obviously there is nothing more painful than the potential of losing a child, and Jackman demonstrates this with an array of emotions. At first he is in denial, then depressed and eventually becomes angry.

The rest of the supporting cast is phenomenal, too. Terrence Howard and Viola Davis play the parents of the other abducted girl and display the calm and confused nature, more than the heated one. This gives the film balance when Jackman begins to go off the rails and takes the law into his own hands. Gyllenhaal plays the detective who is very dedicated to finding these kids and is just as frustrated as Jackman when their leads are drying up.

Maria Bello plays Jackman’s wife and she was fine, however she is isn’t really given anything to do except lie in a bed and cry all day. She also has one “Skylar White” moment that may annoy audience members (Breaking Bad reference!).

But the thing that makes “Prisoners” work above all else is the direction. Director Denis Villeneuve creates some unbelievably tense moments, including one segment that actually had my heart pounding in my chest. He just shoots everything with such a steady hand and a fantastic sense of intensity, and the final 30 minutes of this film are some of the best I’ve seen all year.

The film’s biggest weakness, and what may hold it back from being one of the best thrillers of the decade, is a combination of the running time and editing. While I was definitely never bored, the film does clock in at nearly two and a half hours. I think if they showed a little less of the initial search and skipped ahead a little more, the middle of the movie would have flown better. But beggars can’t be choosers. 

It’s Oscar season so the rankings could change every week, but as it stands now “Prisoners” is my top movie of the year. It is just so intense, in an entertaining while simultaneously dark way, that you can’t take your eyes off it. It is no film for people with easy stomachs, but if you can handle the film’s gritty concept, it is well worth your time. And attention.

Critics Rating: 8/10