"Pray for the best, but prepare for the worst."
Prisoners is a dark thriller that will have you at the edge of your seat during almost the entirety of the film. It was a very intense experience. It is hard not to compare this film to Mystic River or Gone Baby Gone because those two movies set the landmark for modern thrillers dealing with abduction. Prisoners almost lives up to the standards that those two films set. Canadian director, Denis Villeneuve, follows up his Oscar nominated film, Incendies, with this intense thriller that manages to capture the audiences attention once again. Incendies was one of my favorite films of 2011, and despite Prisoners not living up to the perfection that film achieved, I still thought this film was highly entertaining and satisfying. There were a few minor plot points that didn't work for me, but that didn't take anything away from this great film. It is a more mainstream film, but it manages to follow a similar approach as Fincher reminding us of Se7en or Zodiac thanks to its dark and haunting atmosphere. I am a huge fan of this genre and really had a fun time trying to solve the mystery through the small clues that Villeneuve masterfully presented in the story. Prisoners was without a doubt one of the most gripping and intense experiences I had all year. Unfortunately it is a little too intense and at times I felt the film could have used some moments to release such tension. Anyways Prisoners is a highly recommended film and a must-see.
Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is a family man who is always prepared for the worst. He is a survivalist with a basement full of provisions and is teaching his older son, Ralph (Dylan Minnette), how to hunt. He's married to Grace (Maria Bello) and they have a daughter named Anna (Erin Gerasimovich). One afternoon, Keller's worst nightmare comes true while they are hanging out with their friendly neighbors the Birches. Franklin (Terrence Howard) and Nancy Birch (Viola Davis) have two kids about the same age as Ralph and Grace, Eliza (Zoe Borde) and Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons). While the two families are having a lovely time together, Joy and Anna decide to go back to Anna's house, but when the Dover's come back home they are horrified to discover that the kids never made it back. Ralph remembers that they were playing next to a strange RV that was parked up front which is now gone. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is appointed as the lead investigator in the case and the first thing he does is locate the RV. The driver is a disturbed young man named Alex Jones (Paul Dano) who has the IQ of a 10 year old and with no evidence to incriminate him Detective Loki has to let him free. His Aunt (Melissa Leo) comes to pick him up and explains how naive and innocent he is. As hours pass, Keller begins to get more desperate and convinced that Alex was involved he decides to take matters into his own hands. From here on the tension begins to escalate as they try to solve the mystery.
Prisoners succeeds as a neo-noir thriller building up a lot of tension with a very dark atmosphere which is perfectly captured by cinematographer Roger Deakins. It adds to the mysterious mood of the story which on its own is already pretty intense. The screenplay, written be Aaron Guzikowski (Contraband), is very well written with a very interesting premise and some great twists. My only complaint with this film has to do with the lack of a strong female character. With such a strong cast, I thought that Maria Bello or Viola Davis could have been given a stronger role, but the film focuses mostly on Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. They both give very strong and convincing performances, and Gyllenhaal has surprised me over the last three years with very good films (Source Code, End of Watch, and now this one). I guess he has been choosing his roles very wisely lately because his next film also looks interesting (Enemy which is also directed by Denis Villeneuve). Paul Dano also gave a strong performance as his character's motivations were very hard to decipher. The strong cast and the interesting story make this a very entertaining film despite some minor flaws involving character motivations. It is one of the best recent thrillers coming out of Hollywood and I doubt you will be disappointed.