With the season of summer blockbusters coming to a close, it seems like the perfect time to have a gritty mystery with an ensemble cast released.
“Prisoners” is the story of a father (Hugh Jackman) who will stop at nothing to find his kidnapped daughter and the detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) who never leaves a case unsolved investigating her disappearance.
Combined with a love for a good mystery, the film’s themes of family and desperate measures had my appetite properly whetted after viewing the trailer months ago. Although I probably could’ve done a better job of reining in my expectations going in, “Prisoners” managed to exceed them even at such an inflated level.
After sharing a Thanksgiving meal together, two families are torn apart when each of their daughters vanish without much of a trace. The only clue to the identity of the girls’ captor is a creepy RV belonging to a mentally-challenged young man (Paul Dano). When the leads start to turn cold, Keller Dover (Jackman) decides to take matters into his own hands.
From one view of the trailer, you can tell this is an ensemble piece. On top of the names already listed there’s Oscar winner Melissa Leo, Oscar nominees Terrence Howard and Viola Davis and Golden Globe nominee Maria Bello. It’s not uncommon for a cast of actors like that to cancel each other out in this type of film. After all, if everyone stands out then no one really stands out. Fortunately “Prisoners” centers around the characters played by Jackman and Gyllenhaal and both actors arguably give the performance of their careers.
Though it comes across as more of a drama, at the center of the film is the search for two missing girls. As leads develop into the pursuit of suspects, there are a few thrilling sequences reminiscent of films like “Zodiac” or “Se7en.” Along with some exciting scenes, the film itself takes a few twists and turns that will keep the audience guessing til the whistle blows at the end.
There really isn’t much I can say negatively about the film, but the performances by Jackman and Gyllenhaal and the story itself are clearly its strongest qualities. Jackman in particular shows a full range of emotions as the father of a missing girl who resorts to torturing suspects for the truth. The scenes between him and Paul Dano are downright chilling at times. Even though it’s obvious that what we are seeing is wrong, the audience still has to question how much differently they would act in such a horrible situation. Despite being hoodwinked into appearing in “Movie 43,” Hugh Jackman is on quite the roll right now.
“Prisoners” is a dark thriller that is very well put together and, as it currently stands, is my choice for film of the year. Considering the fact it’s only September that title could change 10 times between now and January, but “Prisoners” is suspenseful, challenging and a complete joy to watch after such a mediocre 2013.
Later this week I’ll post my review of the indie film “In a World…” written and directed by (and starring) Lake Bell. Happy viewing.