Another film from Sicario director Denis Villeneuve (I think that I’m subconsciously watching his films in order to gauge whether he can be trusted with the precious cargo that is Blade Runner!), Prisoners stars Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover whose daughter, as well the daughter of his friend Franklin (Terence Howard), goes missing and he firmly believes that Alex Jones (Paul Dano), a young man with the mind of a ten year-old, is responsible. After the investigation led by (the awesomely named!) Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) apparently proves Jones’ innocence, Keller takes matters into his own hands, torturing Jones until he admits where his daughter is.
The performances of Prisoners are certainly laudable; Hugh Jackman plays the bedraggled Keller with noticeable intensity and emotion while Jake Gyllenhaal is, as always, charismatic and passionate as Detective Loki. There’s also very strong support from Maria Bello, whose character falls to pieces after her daughter is kidnapped and Bello plays this perfectly, Terence Howard, whose character displays considerable unease and guilt when Dano’s character is mercilessly tortured and Melissa Leo, who gets a chance to shine magnificently during the film’s final revelation. And of course, Paul Dano is remarkable as the unique, softly spoken Alex Jones. On a similar note, the make-up used on Dano after his character is tortured is truly shocking and horrific.
The story of Prisoners has that admirable quality of not spoonfeeding the necessary information to the audience, preferring to let them use their heads and work it all out for themselves. The film does provide all of the “clues” necessary to unlocking the central mystery and by not blatantly spelling it all out for us, the film retains a sense of intelligence, integrity and ultimately provides a worthy viewing experience.
The cinematography and music is also great and, just like Sicario, it comes courtesy of Roger Deakins and Jóhann Jóhannsson, respectively. This film is indeed aesthetically similar to Sicario and the scenes that take place in torrential rain are excellently filmed. The music is also successful in creating tension and menace.
The only real problem with Prisoners is its length; at 153 minutes, it is a film that probably could have benefited from being just a bit more compact and not so sprawling. I recall that in some of my first reviews on this blog, I mentioned that I had a tendency to “slump down” in my seat during sections of waning interest and in this film, I can positively say that there was some MAJOR slumping taking place! Interest does tend to wane at certain points but by the final act, it all comes together so satisfyingly.
So yeah, I’d say that Blade Runner is in pretty safe hands . . .
Overlong but with great direction, performances, cinematography and music, Prisoners is a confident outing that all comes together beautifully by the end.
★ ★ ★ ★