by Mike Holtz, WeWatchedAMovie
Directed by: Denis Villenueve (Incendies)
Starring: Hugh Jackman (The Wolverine), Jake Gyllenhaal (Zodiac)
When the Wolverine teams up with War Machine to even a score and free an innocent child their mindsets clash and…..sorry about that. Actually Hugh Jackman doesn’t play Wolverine but rather Keller Dover, father and husband who is hellbent on keeping his family safe and his friend Franklin Birch (Howard) who is a bit more relaxed. Both lose their daughters during Thanksgiving dinner and Dover is convinced he knows who abducted them. Enter Detective Loki (badass name isn’t it?) played by Jake Gyllenhaal. A mysterious character who’s life is based on detective work and not much else. This is what gives him his edge apparently as he has never left a case un-solved but that doesn’t mean he isn’t prone to mistakes (foreshadowing). As he races frantically to find his daughter, Dover feels as if Detective Loki isn’t doing enough and finds himself crossing lines he can’t come back from.
The watchers of Prisoners will no doubt be split into two groups. Parents and people who aren’t parents. As a parent of a little girl not far in age from the girls abducted in this movie I literally had a hard time not kicking the chair in front of me in a total rage. When I imagine something hellish like this happening to myself it is purely un-fathomable how I would react to it. Somehow Jackman manages to reach that level of helplessness, despair and pure anger in his performance. That’s amazing to me and his performance in Prisoners is one of the best I have seen from him or any other actor, ever.
Jake Gyllenhaal is at a disadvantage from the start but shines ridiculously despite it. His character doesn’t have half the emotional anchor Jackson’s does and to boot he is a completely mysterious character with no back story to go off of, more than a few tattoos and he still kills it. We learn through his conversation with an un-savory character later in the film that he was in an all boys Catholic school and hated it and that’s about it. All we know is he eats alone on Thanksgiving, gives the job his all and doesn’t have any family. Somehow Gyllenhaal still manages to breathe life and character into Detective Loki, from eye twitches to strange body posture and brooding nature it feels like whether or not we know Detective Loki or not, Gyllenhaal knows him perfectly. Another great performance by Gyllenhaal to add to his already impressive resume and the dude just picks awesome roles.
Prisoners has more to it than just the abduction of two children however, (a LOT more) and it ends up being a terribly hard movie to watch (especially for parents) That doesn’t stop them from showing off beautiful, haunting cinematography that will remind you of a David Fincher film, a deep moral dilemma that will leave you discussing and arguing with your movie going partner afterwards and a pure creepiness lacking in other thrillers and even horror movies. There are twists and turns in Prisoners that done nearly ANY other way would have been completely generic and Hollywood (ish) however Prisoners crafts them together so well they don’t feel like they want to be “shocking” and instead come of as realistic and mother effing “shocking”.
There is a long running time in Prisoners but the story is crafted so well that it never felt that way. Each turn was epic in frustration, grief, surprise and total anger that I needed the moments in between to come back to the real world for a moment as it was all truly a bit much for me and I haven’t felt that way in the theater in a long time. Not since John Leguizamo’s The Pest (kidding.) In all seriousness Prisoners may be the most emotionally damaging ride I have ever been on. They took me to a place I did not want to go but it wasn’t all painful. Watching Gyllenhaal work through the mystery of the abductors was entertaining and scary at one time and there still were some good “rooting for you” moments for such a dark film.
The acting in Prisoners seals the deal alone for me, making this my personal top movie of the year so far. (I gotta be honest, I don’t see it being de-throned either) Jackman and Gyllenhaal should each be in Oscar talks for the film and so should the Director. I may have never been this tore up by any other movie (Maybe Batman & Robin for different reasons) in history. Prisoners was so powerful that while it’s my favorite movie of the year, I’m not sure I can even watch it a second time.