I Saw A Film Today… Prisoners

prisonersThere are a few things that I could talk about here. I could talk about how Jake Gyllenhaal’s appearance on Inside the Actors Studio was probably one of my favorite episodes to date. I could talk about how at the very moment I am typing this The Morning Thunder Buffalo has now turned four years old. But I’m going to talk about how during my screening of Prisoners there were two people trying to have an intimate exchange of body fluids (hint: it wasn’t saliva). I mean, who wants to get freaky while a film about child abduction is unfolding on a giant screen? Or, for that matter, who wants to have sex at a theater at all? I clean theaters on the weekend and they are nasty at times. Well, most of the time- we, as Americans, are pretty lazy when it comes to cleaning up our messes in public places. But, back on track, I just don’t see the appeal of getting tobacco spit and half a Snickers bars stuck to my nethers for a bit of in-and-out. Top tip:  If your lover want to explore your pumpkin patch in a theater, move along to another farmer. Now, let’s talk about some kidnapping.

On Thanksgiving day, Keller and Grace Dover (Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello) are having dinner at their friends, The Birches (Viola Davis, Terrance Howard). While recovering from gorging themselves, the two families realize that their young daughters are nowhere to be found. After their son recalls a strange RV being parked near their house, a man hunt for the vehicle quickly leads to the arrest of Alex Jones (Paul Dano), a young man with the intelligence of ten-year-old.

After Alex is let go because of lack of evidence, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is put on the case. But when desperation settles into the being of Mr. Dover, he decides to take the investigation into his own hands. While both men have a lot of questions, once they begin digging they soon find the unsettling answers that accompany them.

Prisoners, in all meaning of the word and without any misconceptions, is a thriller. And coincidentally is one of the best films so far this year. I worried that a film that is 146 minutes long wouldn’t be able to legitimately keep a thrilling pace the entire time. But the magic of this film is that it knows how to pace itself. It has a steady beat most of the time but when the action need a kick, it delivers. This contrast makes for an intense and true edge-of-your-seat experience.

This film is also intelligent, another aspect that has been absent from films under this genres banner. The script is sparse on dialogue at times, and thankfully so. It keeps your attention because you actually have to pay attention to the details. So yeah, you have to stop checking Facebook every five minutes on your phone to keep up with the plot. Trust me, Aunt Marcy’s staph infection photos will still be there after the movie. Sadly, I might add.

The only flaw I really noticed with the film is its ending. No, not the last forty seconds of the film, which some could find annoying where others find brilliance. I mean the last fifteen to twenty minutes. Everything seems to wrap up and connect a little to easily and conveniently.  To note, I don’t believe it takes anything away from the film. I just think it would be more interesting if a few things were left unanswered.

The performances in this film are masterful. In an already varied and impressive resume, this is the standout performance of Jake Gyllenhaal’s career. Detective Loki is methodical, impulsive, and smart, and Gyllenhaal fully embodies this man. The mystery surrounding him is what draws you in. To the opposite of him is a man who makes it very clear what he wants. Hugh Jackman is a bloody mad man in this film, hellbent, irrational, and a force that is the heartbeat of the film. And with a supporting cast as strong as Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Terrance Howard, Melissa Leo, Maria Bello, and young underrated actor David Dastmalchian, You really can’t do much better in modern cinema.

Prisoners is a highly appropriate title for this film, as everyone in it is a prisoner to something. It’s simply a great film, one that demands to be watched again, not because of its complexities, but because of its brilliant execution.

Verdict: See it!

*Rated R for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout. 146 minutes. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Incendies).

** Thanks to my friend Cody for seeing this with me.

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