Review: Prisoners

Starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano (There Will be Blood) and the 2011 Oscar Best Supporting Actress Melissa Leo (The Fighter). The 2 hours and 33 minutes long of Crime Drama Thriller “Prisoners” directed by 2011 Oscar nominated Best Foreign Language film “Incendies” (Québec, Canada) director Denis Villeneuve, is about 2 little girls gone missing in a quiet neighborhood while their families are celebrating Thanksgiving together. When the police catches the suspicious RV driver but lack of evidence to hold him, one of the fathers takes the initiative of research by himself and imprisons and tortured the suspect violently.

“Prisoners”, Villeneuve’s first English language film, is like his well-known “Incendies” – a complicated storyline with flash-back storytelling in art house realistic style. Despite of an old and unfortunate kidnapping plot, police crime investigation and with a few Hollywood actors, Villeneuve anyway manages to tell a story like it’s actually happening around us and, gladly, the structure has nothing Hollywood like of crime or leverage.

Winter in a tranquil and peaceful forest, a father shows his son, who’s not too into hunting, how to hunt and gun down a young deer. A RV driving into a tranquil and peaceful community while everyone is gathering for the holiday, kids going missing, a heavy rain falls, law enforcement quickly involved.

Maybe we’re too used to Hugh Jackman’s wolverine or still admiring his amazing performance in Les Misérables? Jackman and other parents played by Terrence Howard, Maria Bello and Viola Davis are sometimes lacking the credibility as worrying missing children’s parents, but “Prisoners” has some undeniable meaningful images and some powerful acting makes this Major Studio production film bonus with a very non-commercial depth and layers.

Nevertheless. These unnatural and not so devastated parents are soon to be forgotten when the suspect Paul Dano is in view, when the worries of these two little innocent girls’ safety is up to our necks, and when the outstanding performance of Jake Gyllenhaal is taking over the audience’s entire attention.

The loner and diligent countryside detective Loki played by Jake Gyllenhaal is eating alone in an empty and charmless Chinese restaurant on Thanksgiving night. A very simple conversation between Loki and the waitress shows Loki’s character and his relationship at work. Later in the rain, Loki and his fellow police team captures the suspect (Paul Dano) at the very beginning of the film and we know that the endurance is just beginning and everything is in the most scrupulous detail on the screen.

The exact atmosphere that Villeneuve and the multi awarded and 10 times Oscar nominated Director of Photographer Roger A. Deakins (Skyfall, True Grit, Revolutionary Road, No Country for old Men, The Village etc.) wanted to create – a steady realistic image with indices and traces lead the audience to a complete and complex aspect of an everyday crime. The lighting, the set, the sound, and the composition of a frame … Nothing is for free or meaningless in this film which is truly respectful and an intellectual satisfaction for the viewers.
– Shumaï Chou