Cinema Review: Prisoners

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DIR: Dennis Villeneuve  WRI: Aaron Guzikowski  PRO: Broderick Johnson, Kira Davis, Andrew A. Kosove, Adam Kolbrenner  DOP: Roger Deakins  ED: Joel Cox, Gary D. Roach  CAST:  Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano

We are firmly in the same territory as Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone in this story about the disappearance of two little girls and the desperate measures taken by one of the fathers (Hugh Jackman) to discover their whereabouts. The early scenes possess a sombre style and mood which are eventually suffocated by the increasingly thrillerish convolutions the plot takes. The film stokes our general fears concerning the vulnerability of children, but it feels as if this shared anxiety is merely burned up expediently to lend urgency to a thriller. Ultimately, the children are doubly absent, both from the characters in the story and the story’s deepest concerns, and this detracts from our ability to invest deeply in the film.

As ever, Hugh Jackman is committed and convincing as the distraught father who unwisely applies his aggressive, survivalist outlook to finding his daughter, turning on the only suspect in the disappearance: a young man with a low IQ played by Paul Dano. There are good actors throughout the cast, but one could have lived without Jake Gyllenhall’s ostentatiously actorly decision to play the lead detective with a pronounced involuntary blink that only draws attention to the self-consciousness of his performance and takes us out of the story. The last act drags and the good will earned by the composed opening has been squandered by the time the film gets through with its drawn-out finale and the screen abruptly cuts to black. There has been talk (probably generating from the studio marketing department) that this is an Oscar contender, but it never distinguishes itself as anything more than an effective genre piece, graced by the usual high-standard of work by cinematographer Roger Deakins and with particular appeal to those who enjoyed the above-mentioned (and overpraised) Dennis Lehane adaptations.

Tony McKiver

15A (See IFCO for details)

153 mins
Prisoners is released on 4th October 2013

Prisoners – Official Website

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