Friday, September 20, 2013

Prisoners Movie Review

Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman (r) star in Prisoners

Gyllenhaal, Jackman Take No Prisoners

It's difficult to be too enthusiastic about a movie that deals with the kidnapping of not one, but two six-year-old girls; but Universal Pictures' Prisoners is an outstanding film. Compelling doesn't begin to describe how far on the edge of your seat, you'll find yourself. I'd also be remiss if I didn't warn you about the film's length (it's frustratingly long at 153 minutes) and heavy, heavy subject matter. That said, it simply can't be missed.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: PRISONERS, from Oscar-nominated director Denis Villeneuve, stars Oscar nominees Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal in a story that poses the question: How far would you go to protect your child? Keller Dover (Jackman) is facing every parent's worst nightmare. His six-year-old daughter, Anna, is missing, together with her young friend, Joy, and as minutes turn to hours, panic sets in. The only lead is a dilapidated RV that had earlier been parked on their street. Heading the investigation, Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) arrests its driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), but a lack of evidence forces the only suspect's release. Knowing his child's life is at stake, the frantic Dover decides he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands. But just how far will this desperate father go to protect his family?

What’s Best: Gyllenhaal and Jackman are fantastic as the lead detective and dynamic father of one of the missing girls. If you thought Hugh was gritty as Wolverine, just wait until you see him as a take-charge father/survivalist. Gyllenhaal meanwhile, shines even brighter as a quietly intense cop who's 'solved every case he's ever been assigned.' The pair butt heads (a refreshing break from the predictable palsy-walsy relationship, lesser directors would assign them.)

As for direction, kudos to the aforementioned Villeneuve for bringing an updated, Seven-like style to the mix. Downright creepy at times, Prisoners doesn't try to shield its audience from imaginary horrors... preferring to distract it with several twists and turns, that will leave you guessing to the very end. This includes graphic torture, that's bound to cue a debate or two on the way home from the theater.

What’s Not: Boy, is it long. At the 110-minute mark, I went from "This could be one of the top 10 movies of the year," to "End already!" It doesn't lose steam mind you; but it's hard enough to sit through any movie for two hours... yet alone one as heavy-handed as Prisoners. I suspect Villeneuve wants us to feel exhausted, similar to how his main characters feel; but that's a lot to ask of someone who's paying $ to be entertained.

One other observation, perhaps unique to my screening audience. Inappropriate laughter. Prisoners isn't the type of movie you expect to hear snickers, etc.; yet alone, outright laughs. Not sure what it says about society in general; but even I got annoyed.

Best Line: Before disappearing into a bottle of pills for most of the movie, Mrs. Dover (Maria Bello) remarks, 'It's embarrassing... all this fuss,' still hoping that her daughter will just pop up. On a lighter note (yes, there's some levity) I loved Loki's interaction with a waitress on Thanksgiving night over fortune cookies. Loki wants 'em, and tries to use the Chinese Zodiac to his advantage. The server (born in the year of the monkey) shoots him down, 'My boss is a rooster.' Clever. Clever.

Overall: I'm tempted to grade Prisoners as high as a B+, but the extra 30 minutes makes that close to impossible. Gyllenhaal is sensational, right down to his nervous habit of blinking his eyes: You really feel the stress beaming from his person. Jackman's character has no trouble doing whatever's necessary to extract the truth... bringing along a squeamish Franklin (Terrence Howard) for the ride. Religious notes ring throughout, none better than Keller's fortuitous (ominous?) 'Pray for the best. Prepare for the worst.' Light on gore, Prisoners is no less scary: One of the best dramas in years, minus the runtime.

Grade: B