“They only cried when I left them.”
From Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, Prisoners takes a trip down a dark and disturbing rabbit hole, weaving around the lives of several people involved in the abduction of two young girls. Hugh Jackman is intense as one of the distressed fathers, whom works both with and against the law in an attempt to find his daughter. But it is Jake Gyllenhaal who makes the biggest screen impact, combining his experience in Zodiac with one his most understated but professional performances as Detective Loki, a delightfully ambiguous character attempting to unravel the mystery at hand.
The director’s leaden and layered style is evident straight from the start, with clever dark and patient shots that hold onto the emotion written on the faces of all involved. Although the story itself lacks any real surprise, the myriad of character emotions, from Bello’s regression to Jackman’s frustration and cruelty, creates drama and leaves the viewer fully engrossed and slightly on edge. The cinematography also combines with Guzikowski’s writing to make a film that is artfully textured, but also intensely exciting. Although there is a sense of unfulfilled promise in its restraint, the dialogue flows and mixes with the rain-drenched setting evenly, so as not to leave the viewer squirming uncomfortably in their seat.
As an undoubtedly sinister and arty film, there are several clever metaphors and religious suggestions to have the critics crooning, but it does feel a shame that the gas isn’t stepped on sooner to catapult the film forward into an intense thriller. Despite this though, with such blurred lines between the characters and their motives, the real thrill is seeing the great actors performing. Especially Gyllenhaal’s eye-twitching and Paul Dano’s Eli-like turn as imprisoned suspect Alex Jones.
With an ominous and haunting soundtrack that sounds like a cross between Atticus Ross and John Carpenter to accompany the film, Prisoners is a classy yet honest movie that delivers a solid if somewhat predictable plot, coated with exceptional performances and some delicious cinematography that will linger behind the eye for some time.
Shapstik Verdict: Prisoners exudes such an overtly artistic style, that its patience and long running time arguably oversteps the mark to the point of slightly silencing a potential thriller, which broods underneath the surface like those imprisoned souls that suffer in the film. But the plot’s twists and turns expertly intertwine with the emotion of the characters to punch a hole through the screen and reach out to the viewer, delivering a truly dark and layered drama that is not easy to forget. 8/10