Denis Villeneuve (director of the Oscar-nominated ‘Incendies‘) has given us one hell of a terrifying and highly suspenseful ride with his first major Hollywood film, ‘Prisoners’. The movie has an amazing cast and an excellent script.
It seems like almost every week, we hear a news story about a child in our neighborhood, town or city that has gone missing. The reactions and damage this causes the families feel all too real and scary in the film, which features violence and suspense that never let up.
The movie begins with Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) teaching his son how to kill a deer for sport and food. It’s an interesting and haunting scene. Next, Keller and his family head over to the home of their neighbors (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) for Thanksgiving dinner. While the mothers prepare the food, the husbands talk about work and sports, the older teenagers watch TV, and the two young daughters of the families play around the house.
As the Thanksgiving afternoon goes on, the two girls venture outside to play, but they never come back. The older kids noticed a creepy old mobile home parked out front during the day, and now everyone panics for the worst. The police are called, and Det. Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) takes the lead in the case. The cops soon find the mobile home a few miles away and arrest the owner, Alex Jones (Paul Dano). However, Alex has the intellect of a ten-year-old, and is released a couple days later due to lack of evidence, even though he whispers incriminating evidence about the two missing girls directly to Keller.
Keller observes Alex’s weird behavior and is convinced that he’s responsible for the abduction. Since the police aren’t doing anything about him, Keller takes matters into his own hands by kidnapping Alex and torturing him to get answers. Meanwhile, Loki pursues other leads to find the missing girls, including Alex’s aunt (Melissa Leo) and a strange man obsessed with mazes.
‘Prisoners’ is as scary and suspenseful as ‘Se7en’ and ‘Zodiac’ put together. The film draws amazing performances from Gyllenhaal and Jackman. Both men show just how far they will go for their families and jobs, even if it makes them the bad guys. Dano is terrific playing an innocent yet highly creepy guy. You never know what he has up his sleeve.
Villeneuve’s direction is beautiful and haunting as he takes us through the gritty and grimy underbelly of two seemingly normal families during the worst part of their lives. I have no doubt that you’ll leave this movie shaken for at least a couple of days, and I won’t be surprised if ‘Prisoners’ were to be recognized come Oscar season.