Nobody likes the idea of a child being abducted. Vigil lights burning, parents crying, the idea of what could be happening to them as the days go on and on—doesn’t exactly make for an ideal date night flick. But then there are movies like ‘Prisoners’ that do it so well and passionately it should be a crime not to see them.
Taking the route of movies like ‘Seven’ and ‘Gone Baby Gone’, ‘Prisoners’ possesses a very gray, grim overcast. Rainy streets, blocked out sun, the solemn image of a mangy RV driving through a neighborhood only to park along a random house. The environment sets the atmosphere for the movie, letting you know something evil is going to happen before it even does.
Hugh Jackman gives a gut-wrenching and provocative performance as Keller Dover, one of the fathers who challenge the moral torture any parent going through this would endure. Aggressive, frustrated, and goal-oriented, his actions against suspect Alex Jones (Paul Dano) make for much of the controversy, opening that envelope that says, “How far is too far”. It’s all very disturbing, but I couldn’t help but ask myself if I wouldn’t do the same thing myself.
He is matched by Detective Loki (Jake Gyellenhall) whose gives one of his best performances as the exhausted but vigilant cop who is the foil to Dover’s aggressive mindscape. The investigation leads him to the dark basements and seedy alley ways that bring to mind the creepy, suspicious environments of ‘Zodiac’. He goes through many of the tribulations that Dover does, but reflects the other side of that coin that works within the boundaries, but the effectiveness of which can be debated. His constant blinking brings to mind Heath Ledger’s licking as The Joker. It’s just that one element that makes the performance
Director Denis Villeneuve comes closer to pulling of Fincher than anyone else working today. The dark color pallets, a mood effected and manipulated by weather, using violence to illustrate the questions of morality and conscience. But above all, the suspense and anger is channeled through the characters, not a despicable sense of gore and violence. The supporting casts including Terrance Howard, Maria Bello, Viola Davis and Paul Dano—in a quietly brilliant performance— do an excellent job of branching out the complexity of the plot, offering opposing viewpoints and levels of action the audience can debate over.
Bleak, creepy, complex, with career defining performances, ‘Prisoners’ stand on its own two feet as one of the best movies of the year that does exactly what it’s supposed to do: Leaves you questioning every aspect of plot and meaning with an uncomfortable feeling in your belly. Yes losing a child is hard, and this movie does more than ask, “What would you do?” It demonstrates the reality of whatever choice you make.