The Efficient Procedural; Prisoners Review

Director: Dennis Villeneuve (Incendies, Polytechnique)

Writer: Aaron Guzkowski (Contraband)

Cinematographer: Roger Deakins (Skyfall)

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

Production Budget: $46 million

Release Date: Friday, September 20th, 2013

Running Time: 2 hours and 26 minutes

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Paul Dano, and Melissa Leo

Plot: Two children go missing on Thanksgiving day. Day after day as the search for clues,becomes more desperate; the investigating police officer and the father of one of the victims each go to great lengths of their own to find answers.

Review: My expectations going into Prisoners were high and they were met. There are a few times going into a movie where you feel sure of the quality cinema that you will be getting and this is one of them. I do not want to overhype this though, it is simply a well made and confident film with good performances and no major weaknesses.

What I’ve seen lacking in many movies recently that I sorely crave as a moviegoer is momentum. That kind of element is present here from scene to scene. The tension rises and the passage of time carries weight. Character’s change as the film goes on and aren’t stale.

This is more of a Gyllenhaal show…

Don’t be too fooled by the previews as this is more of a Jake Gyllenhaal movie than a Hugh Jackman one, but the latter definitely gives one of his best performances.  He has gotten rid of most of the charisma that made his previous characters like Wolverine likable, and here is in ‘Robert Angier’ Prestige mode. Gyllenhaal is a bit more complicated as a good natured but dedicated cop, bringing forward the obsessive dedication of ‘Robert Graysmith‘ mixed with the quiet hostility of ‘Donnie Darko’. Nobody here is breaking any new cinematic ground (director included), but these are still well thought out performances and solid Hollywood filmmaking.

… But Hugh Jackman does gives one of his best performances.

The supporting cast is also noteworthy in their smaller roles; Terrence Howard and Viola Davis do well as the other parents who get their child kidnapped, and get put in a difficult position by Jackman. I did not even notice until after the credits that Melissa Leo was in this movie, always the big transformations with her, she does the best job in this movie for my money.

Maybe it’s because I’m such a movie buff, but going in knowing that this movie was shot by 10 time Oscar-nominated Cinematographer Roger Deakins, was a distraction for me. The framing of each shot was perfect, but unlike Skyfall there seemed to be no dynamic camera angles. As cleanly staged as it all was, it seemed like a show off and it didn’t jive with the tone of the movie which developed as an increasingly desperate scenario. Maybe if he wins an Academy Award maybe he won’t have to show off as much, but that could just be Villeneuve’s direction.

Most of my points are exemplified here in this shot.

Finally, I’d like to say on a personal level that the length of this movie is awesome and works to its advantage. You get the sense of longevity and value for your money and at no point does the film drag or overstay its welcome (hopefully like this review). I expect come awards season this film will pick up a few acting nods across the board, with yet another nomination for Deakins. As this is definitely a film worth watching, and discussing with your friends at the water cooler.

Prisoners is currently in theatres.

Rating: +3

-3          +2          +1          0          +1          +2          +3


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