Review: Prisoners (2013, Denis Villenueve)

809DD08308020AE3E3511AE43B_h498_w598_m2RATING: 8.5/10

Director: Denis Villenueve
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello, Viola Davis
Screenplay: Aaron Guzkowski

To be completely honest with anybody who may be reading this review, I did not want to see “Prisoners” that much. I just happened to be craving for films that may smell a little bit more like “Oscar” (though “Prisoners” has a slim chance of being nominated for anything…hopefully I’m wrong, though), so I went to see it. The trailer didn’t interest me so much, because I don’t really like “searching for your child films with showy performances”. But that’s just me. I came out of the theatre with a happy film-viewing tummy, surprised to have seen such a well-crafted, intense, crime thriller that brought together elements of good storytelling and fine acting. Notably the performances of the two male lead Jackman and Gyllenhaal.

Though the trailer paints the film to be almost typical in terms of the lost-child genre, “Prisoners'” screenplay and plot was definitely the backbone of the film’s success. It tells the story of the ever-ready-for-disaster father Keller Dover (Jackman) who has lost his daughter (along with the child of his neighbours, played by Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) under mysterious circumstances. When Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) starts working on his lead to uncover the story of the missing girls, Keller becomes consumed of his daughter’s disappearance and takes matters into his own hands.

The brilliant thing about Jackman is he really has come a long way from his “Kate and Leopold” (2001) days. And man, are we happy. The solid actor, brings another skin deep performance as Keller Donner. Though I understand why some may not like his showy, emotional turn, you can’t help but empathise with Jackman. And that, in fact, is true skill. His final scene, was heartbreaking and he didn’t need to scream (which he does a lot in the movie) to make the entire portion of the picture work. Weirdly enough, that was the most effective scene in his whole performance in the film. He’s becoming a world class actor. Though Gyllenhaal deserves an equal amount of acclaim and praise for his performance as Detective Loki, Jackman is more likely to snag an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. But we all know that won’t happen, unless they shower him with love, like they did with his Jean Valjean performance in last year’s “Les Miserables” (2013) – a failed movie in my opinion, but man, that was quite a performance of his.

Gyllenhaal is back with revenge and redemption for his rather slow paced movie career. But I’m hoping that he’s back for a while. Back in 08 when he did “Zodiac”, people were saying the same things. But Gyllenhaal puts another layer of depth and consistency with his characterisation of Detective Loki. He makes a role that could have been done by absolutely anybody, his and only his. It’s a stunning performance of intensity and subtlety that makes you shake in your boots. His awkward blinks only adds realism to the character, who may seem weird to some, but a brilliant man, nonetheless. Gyllenhaal, has always proven himself as a capable actor, but has been lurking downhill the past few years. I’m glad he’s found the right track to good roles again, which he lost after such a spectacular turn in “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). I hope Jake keeps it up.

The rest of the bit players were properly casted for what they were. Though I wasn’t a big fan of Maria Bello, because she didn’t really do anything but cry and lay in bed (literally). Viola Davis on the other hand, was triumphant in a terribly small role. Extend this role a bit more next time, please! She outshines many of the female members. Leo deserves honourable mention too for her conniving portrayal of the aunt of Paul Dano’s suspected character.

Villeneuve brings a wonderful screenplay to life in thriller-like form, and rightfully so. That cinematography, crafted by the talented and never dull Roger Deakins, mesmerises the eyes once more. He makes the entire picture, though gritty as ever, so beautiful to look at. And I tell you, it works so well. My favourite thing about the entire picture is the irony in the title and the writing of its screenplay. Without putting too much spoilers out there for those you who are planning to see it, the well-thoughtout storytelling work of Guzkowski is irony at its best. It brings together the story of good and evil, mystery and answers, and craziness all in one. This is definitely a must see film of the year. Unfortunately, it will buried under the numerous awards contenders in the next fews months. But for me, it’s a pretty stand alone motion picture.

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