Director Denis Villeneuve hasn’t made a lot of films but audiences will have no hint of that in Prisoners. This is a film full of raw emotion and deep, dark questions, ones that are placed in front of the viewers for judging.
Villeneuve and his team of script writers make one of the most straightforward and yet compounded stories I’ve ever seen here, one that unifies all of the subplots together in a tight embrace and never lets them drift away from the center. It’s a story that raises questions in its viewers during and after you watch it, questions like “How far would you go to find your missing child? What are you capable of and willing to do if the situation calls for it? Would you seek vigilante justice or let the cops handle it? What limits do you have or do all evaporate to save someone you love?” These are the questions that Prisoners presents as well as many more, more that are just as thought-provoking and difficult to answer.
I know I’ve used the word suspenseful more than a couple of times but if there was a right time to use it, it would be here. I’ve read some reviews that have made jabs at the film’s pacing but the cunning and apprehension kept my interest for the entirety of the film. All the dialogue and engagements factor into the story’s fulfillment and it never feels mundane or unproductive. It’s both efficient and effective as the evidence, clues and questions build in the back of your mind. You continue to balance the story folding before you and the detective in all of us while at the same time trying to discover your answers to the desperate questions that continually protrude from the film.
A prolific cast headed by Hugh Jackman aids in Villeneuve’s hostage masterpiece. Easily the best acting I’ve seen from him, Jackman plays the frantic father and the authenticity of his role only drags audiences further into the film, making them live in his shoes and feel what he feels. I’ve always known that Jackman had potential but not until this film did I realize how much. His inner turmoil is our turmoil, his sacrifices our sacrifices. The weight and burden of his actions are felt by both him and his audience. A truly mesmerizing performance that enveloped the viewers.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Detective Loki, so you may or may not think that’s a play on words. That’s up to you to decide. He comes across as abrasive and insensitive, but not one-dimensional. You can tell there’s something else going on even though he has the same objectionable look on his face for the majority of the film.
Even Terrence Howard, despite his usual boring charade, managed to put on a cloak of empathy and morality for this film and act like an actor in an abduction movie should.
There are plenty of twists and turns and circles and squares and dead-ends and all the other shapes and lines you want to throw in here. It’s a never-ending cycle of plot development that continues to exhaust moviegoers to no end with its untiring pace. There’s no foreshadowing or hint as to what may happen next. You’ll probably shrink a little in your chair and your muscles will constrict as the seemingly endless trepidation goes on and on. I wouldn’t venture to call this a horror film, but you should expect some bad feelings when watching this. I’m not talking about watching a movie with a WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE label on it. I’m talking about a film that doesn’t scare you so much as it encourages the fear inside of you. You’re going to feel when you watch this film. Let’s put it that way.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Non-Stop, Divergent, Spider-Man 3, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Young Guns)
50-59 This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Alien Resurrection, Full Metal Jacket, Thor, You’re Next, The Starving Games)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Alien, Serendipity, Cowboys and Aliens, 300: Rise of an Empire, A Haunted House)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (Midnight Cowboy, Dark Fury, Alien 3, Open Grave)
My score for Prisoners: 96.
You’re going to have some questions at the conclusion of Prisoners, but it’s still one of the best of 2013 and the best abduction film I’ve ever seen. While I would usually talk about those questions in the spoiler’s edition, this is just too good a film to spoil. Sorry guys.