Prisoners Movie Review
Man kidnaps child. Father kidnaps man. Father becomes kidnapper... And Prisoners is just getting going. The new drama-thriller starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal is just that - dramatic and thrilling - and also unpredictable, entertaining and enthralling. Some would say Prisoners captures you, but not me, because that is a cheesy if not downright terrible pun.
Jackman plays a loving father and husband whose life is turned up and down when his daughter and one other girl disappear in broad daylight. Enter a keen detective played by Gyllenhaal to solve the case, whose investigation quickly leads to a psychologically distant young man (Paul Dano). But with a lack of evidence to hold him, the suspect is released, forcing dad to take matters into his own hands.
Both Jackman and Gyllenhaal bring their A-game to the movie. Gyllenhaal is especially strong with what can easily be described as his best performance in years. Prisoners also gives Jackman the juiciest role of his career, though there were times, to no fault of Mr. Wolverine, that I didn't entirely buy into his continued torture of the prime suspect.
The supporting cast also deliver fine performances, though their characters fall by the wayside as time goes on. Dano is good, but his character is so quiet and expressionless his presence almost seems like a waste of the actor's talent. Maria Bello is pretty much there to cry. Viola Davis and Terrence Howard deliver emotional performances, but they largely disappear from the movie halfway through.
Small flaws aside, Prisoners is an exceptionally captivating thriller that keeps you guessing from beginning to end. The movie plays like a character drama, focusing on the interactions of people as they deal with devastating loss, but director Denis Villeneuve and writer Aaron Guzikowski are tricky bastards. Prisoners has a procedural element that gets increasingly complex as it goes along, leading to a somewhat surprising, somewhat strange but ultimately fulfilling climax. The detective's investigation goes in directions you won't see coming, and that's a good thing.
The movie's only other issue is length - at over two-and-a-half hours, it could have used a little tightening toward the end. Once the story enters the home stretch, Villeneuve could have cut to the chase without losing anything of value. Still, the film's overall pace is terrific and its length is hardly a concern.
Prisoners is a more-than-effective thriller and powerful drama that puts on full display the acting talent of Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. Prisoners is also one of the best movies of the year so far. And it makes me want to make another bad pun, but I will spare you.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.