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Prisoners (2013) good movie
USA, 153 min, Rated 14A (ON) 13+ (QC)
Reviewed 09/13, © Stephen Bourne
www.ofrb.gov.on.ca | www.rcq.gouv.qc.ca

Denis Villeneuve - Director
Aaron Guzikowski - Screenplay
Roger Deakins - Cinematography


"Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is facing every parent's worst nightmare. His six-year-old daughter, Anna, is missing, together with her young friend, Joy, and as minutes turn to hours, panic sets in. (...) As the police pursue multiple leads and pressure mounts, knowing his child's life is at stake the frantic Dover decides he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands." - prisonersmovie.warnerbros.com


Hugh Jackman returns to the big screen as God-fearing survivalist family man and suburban Conyers, Georgia handyman Keller Dover, thrown into a horrified and horrific sense of urgency when his six-year-old daughter, Anna, and her young neighbour Joy suddenly disappear on a rainy Thanksgiving Day in director Denis Villeneuve's white knuckled cinematic rollercoaster to the brink of insanity. Dover's frustration further intensifies when assigned local police detective Loki (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) can't unearth enough evidence to detain a mentally challenged man (Paul Dano) accused of the girls' kidnapping, and Dover takes matters into his own hands to force the answers that will save those missing children while Loki's continued investigation dredges up a deeper evil.

Prisoners marks acclaimed Quebec-born director Denis Villeneuve's first American feature, following his Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination for the Canada/France big screen co-production, Incendies (2010). Adapted from the National Arts Centre's former French Theatre Artistic Director Wajdi Mouawad's 2003 stage play of the same name, Incendies, and Villeneuve's previous French-language film, Polytechnique (2009), both swept the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television's Genie Awards and Québec Cinéma's Prix Jutra in their respective years. Prisoners also reportedly marks writer Aaron Guzikowski's first original screenplay, after his Hollywood debut adapting the Icelandic film Reykjavik-Rotterdam (2008) as the US crime drama, Contraband (2012), starring Mark Wahlberg. Additionally, this picture's extraordinary camera work is by 10-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins. Notably, Deakins shot Skyfall (2013), No Country for Old Men (2007), and The Shawshank Redemption (1994). No room for amateurs here. It shows.

Holy cripes, Prisoners is a phenomenal psychological thriller. From its slow burn beginning that suddenly and continually explodes into relentless firestorms of intensely raw emotion, Villeneuve helming Guzikowski's wonderfully crafted screenplay here masterfully taunts the audience with possible clues throughout. Likely most enjoyable for sleuth-minded film buffs is when you think you've figured out what happens next, yet end up just as baffled as Gyllenhaal's Detective Loki when what seemed like intriguing foreshadowing in earlier scenes delightfully unravels as dead ends and more questions. Other times - more than once - Prisoners channels pure Hitchcock in how the primary story arc is blindsided then overwhelmed by unforeseen events that further jar this incredible cast towards deeper levels of terror. It's not a perfect film, but what does work is brilliant. It's brilliant a lot.

Shades of Zodiac (2007), and the chilling Netherlands thriller The Vanishing (1988) easily came to mind while screening this one. (Read more)

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