Review: PRISONERS (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Review: PRISONERS (2013)

Chilling and provocative, PRISONERS is one of the best and most intense psychological thrillers ever seen in years.

Psychological thrillers about missing persons are definitely nothing new in Hollywood. In fact, it's a clich├ęd genre that has been done to death. But PRISONERS really surprised me a lot when I finally watched the movie after reading how overwhelmingly positive the early reviews were. And believe it or not, this is the kind of movie that deserved to be recognized for multiple nominations come awards season.


At the beginning of the movie, we learn that two neighboring families in the middle-class Pennsylvania suburb are gathering together for Thanksgiving. One of the families are the Dovers, which consists of Keller (Hugh Jackman), wife Grace (Maria Bello), 16-year-old son Ralph (Dylan Minnette), and 8-year-old daughter Anna (Erin Gerasimovich). The other family are Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard), wife Nancy (Viola Davis), teenage daughter Eliza (Zoe Soul) and little daughter Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons). Then something happens: both Anna and Joy are disappeared without a trace. Both families begin to grow anxious and try to search them everywhere. The only clue they got is a mysterious RV, which is parked on their street at the exact time when the two little girls went missing.

Enter Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), who eventually arrested the RV driver named Alex Jones (Paul Dano) and starts questioning him for hours. However, Alex, who is a mentally retarded young man with an IQ of a 10-year-old boy, is forced to release into the custody of his aunt Holly (Melissa Leo) due to lack of evidence. When Keller finds out about this, he goes overboard and begins to take matters into his own hands. He still believes that Alex has something to do with the kidnapping and subsequently abducted him at gunpoint. He locks him in his abandoned former residence and tortures him to make him talk. But as the days goes by, it becomes clear that there are something deeper going on about the disappearance of the two little girls.

From the calm beginning to the thought-provoking finale, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (working on his first Hollywood debut) knows very well how to turn this oft-told genre inside out and makes it into a solid, yet intense psychological thriller that grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go even though the movie clocks at a whopping 153 minutes (!). 

Equally captivating as well is Aaron Guzikowski's airtight script which works like a page turner of a bestselling thriller novel. Apart from its pitch-perfect genre convention, he and Villeneuve are bold enough to let the viewers reflecting on how far we could handle if similar desperate situations happen to us. Here, we feel Keller's emotional pain as he forced to act recklessly by becoming a vigilante himself and hunts down his daughter's (possible) abductor regardless whatever consequences that he might getting himself into. Somewhere along the line, themes of desperation and dark morality play perfectly embodies into Guzikowski's script that makes the movie all the more riveting experience to watch for. Completing the look and the feel of the movie is Roger Deakins' atmospheric cinematography which expertly captures the sense of despair and dread of the chilling season of the Pennsylvania suburb.

Speaking of Keller, Hugh Jackman delivers his best performance yet. He certainly shows a great range of emotion playing a desperate father trying to find his daughter at any means necessary. Meanwhile, Jake Gyllenhaal is just as terrific as the relentless Detective Loki. The rest of the supporting actors, even those with little screen time, such as Viola Davis, Maria Bello and Terrence Howard, manage to make great use of their limited roles. Not to be left out of course are Paul Dano and Melissa Leo who command their roles with subtle performances.

The intense moment where Keller let out all his anger to Loki in the car; the violent moment involving a disturbing suspect in the interrogation room; and the revelatory finale.

Keller Dover: Day six and everyday she's wondering why I'm not there to f**king rescue her. Do you understand that? Me, not you, not you, but me! Everyday! So forgive me for not going home and have a good night's rest! And why don't you look for my f**king daughter?!

Frankly, I can't think of one. Because this is just as perfect with a capital "P".

PRISONERS is a rare, perfect thriller that gets everything right. It's definitely a must-see for every movie fans.

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