Friday, October 18, 2013

Prisoners Review

There has been a terrific run of great, quality film making these last few weeks. In fact, I haven't seen anything I haven't really enjoyed in some time. Gravity blew me away and Rush exceeded all my expectations.

Prisoners has been on my radar for a few months after seeing the first trailer. Jackman and Gyllenhaal in a tense, psychological suspense film? Sign me up! Even the mere trailer filled me with complete unease and dread.

Does the movie keep this run of great films in tact?

Prisoners completely grabbed me from the first moment. Sure, we open with a pleasant family gathering on Thanksgiving but we've seen the trailer. We know something horrible is about to happen. This feeling of dread latches on to you and never lets go for the duration. When two young girls go missing it's up to a desperate father (Jackman) and a determined Detective (Gyllenhaal) to find them before time runs out. When the police have to release the main suspect for lack of evidence the father decides to take the law into his own hands with horrific results.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It grabs a hold of you with that feeling of unease and dread and holds you for two and half hours. It sounds like a really long film, and it is, but it is paced well and drawn out in a way that's appropriate to the plot. You won't be bored in the least, you'll be far too tense for that. I hope we all have good bladders because there's no chance you'll want to risk ducking out until it's over.

Prisoners is far from predictable and takes twists and turns you don't expect. I can legitimately say I didn't pick the solution to this mystery at all and it still made sense after the reveal. Often you'll either pick the villain straight away or the twist will be so random it doesn't even make logical sense. None of that here. It's a satisfying conclusion.

No punches are pulled with the torture scenes so keep that in mind if you have a weak stomach for such things. It's unrelenting and visceral. You'll cringe, often, but at the same time question if you would do the same thing in the same situation. I always like a film that makes me question my own morality and motives.

This film just looks amazing. Only the legendary Roger Deakins can take the dreary snow covered Pennsylvania and have look so beautiful and breath taking. It invokes the dark, moody tone of the script so very well. There's some brilliant, immersive use of light sources throughout too. Give this man an Oscar, already. 

As much as I love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, it's great to see him tackle a role like this. His performance is the backbone of the film. If he wasn't great in this role, the whole film wouldn't work. He's completely believable as the desperate father who'll literally do anything to find his missing child. No one channels rage on film quite like Hugh does as I legitimately felt he was capable of anything. Clearly drawing from his own life as a father Hugh is emotionally exposed and a true force of nature here. He'll snag an Oscar nomination for sure.

Prisoners is also the best thing I've seen Jake Gyllenhaal in some time. His detective Loki has a lot of little details and nuances. The film never goes into his backstory but there's enough of these little touches here and there, a twitch, a tattoo, that really makes you want to know who he is. Much better than the typical blank slate detectives we get in this type of film. He feels like a fully formed character with his own unresolved demons.

Aside from Terrence Howard (who I just don't like full stop) the rest of the cast performs to the same high degree as the leads. I'd single out Paul Dano above all. His mentally challenged, abuse victim Alex is so perfect that I didn't even realise it was him until the credits. The last thing I saw him in was Ruby Sparks which is about as far away from Prisoners tonally as you could get.

While I don't think I'd jump to watch it again any time soon, couldn't recommend Prisoners any higher. It's an unrelenting, tense and dread filled film that will stay with you for some time. Great acting, gorgeous cinematography and a tight screenplay, it's the complete package. Catch it if you can stomach it.

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