Thursday, 2 January 2014

Prisoners (2013) - ★★★★½

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Aaron Guzikowski
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello, Dylan Minnette

In my personal opinion, Prisoners is a thriller movie. In fact, I truly believe that it is one of the best thrillers made in years. The atmosphere, the story, the suspected kidnappers, and the urgency of it all had way more suspense in it than your average crime-drama. The setting and tone of the film reminded me of Winter’s Bone (2011) and Mystic River (2003), the suspected kidnappers are as creepy and memorable as the stalker from The Bodyguard (1992), but most importantly, it was almost as suspenseful as The Silence of the Lambs (1991). It isn’t filled with dynamics or action, but rather a grim urgency that echoes in every scene. There haven’t been many movies like this in a long time, so I embrace Prisoners with open arms and say, “Thank-you for saving 2013 from being a boring year of cinema.”

Prisoners is about the disappearance of two little girls, and the struggle to find the who, what, and why of it all. Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is the distraught father of one of the girl's. He believes the investigation led by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is not strong enough to find them, so he takes matters into his own hands. The result is one of the darkest, most thrilling investigations in cinematic history.

The cinematography is absolutely perfect for the film. Every single shot just perpetuated my feelings of suspense and claustrophobia. The atmosphere was really dark, like there was an evil presence looming in every scene. I loved the way the camera panned over the river by the prison as people were searching for the girls, displaying the countryside in a raw and revealing way. I was very impressed with the meticulous film-craftsmanship of Prisoners.

Hugh Jackman impressed the hell out of me! One of Jackman’s greatest moments in Prisoners was his outburst in regards to his daughter "wondering why her Dad hasn’t rescued her yet." His furious explosion to Detective Loki sent chills down my spine. He also made me well up with tears during a scene where he had to identify pieces of clothing. That was every bit as moving as Sean Penn’s performance in Mystic River (2003). I was so upset that I couldn’t even see the screen properly, my eyes were fogged up with tears. Even though I’m not 100% sold on Jackman’s American accent, I’d still call this the second greatest performance of his career. I wouldn't complain if he picked up an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. 

Jake Gyllenhaal didn't impress me so much, but he still gave a really good performance. Detective Loki is like a buffer, tougher Gyllenhall but with incessant eye twitches. I can’t help but feel that he was miscast for the role. Don’t get me wrong; there was nothing wrong with his acting whatsoever. I just can’t help but feel the part was more suited to someone who looked more weathered, like Michael Shannon. 

Melissa Leo, David Dastmalchian, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, and Maria Bello.
The music, cinematography, and pacing of the film were absolutely perfect. What really makes Prisoners shine is the amazing cast that played the supporting roles. The MVP of the film was Melissa Leo, who gave a jaw-droppingly good performance. I adored Paul Dano, who I thought was perfect for the role he played. Viola Davis and Terrence Howard gave sincerely touching performances. This was the first film I've seen of Maria Bello, who played the mother of one of the missing girls. I am officially a huge fan of hers. David Dastmalchian creeped me out every bit as much as Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs, so I believe he deserves huge kudos for that! Yup, the performances were phenomenal. 

I absolutely loved Prisoners. It sparked something in me that I haven't felt in a long time whilst watching a movie. I felt suffocated, worried, thrilled, and to be perfectly honest, quite scared of what the outcome would be. It had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. It may not be the most original, or well made crime/mystery/thriller ever made, but damn is it a good movie!


  1. Great review! I've been meaning to write one of my own for ten days now and it's like you read my mind! As with most movies, I had expected to fall asleep, but no; it was compelling from beginning to end. It had me guessing up until the final scenes.

    Happy New Year!! Let's hope that 2014 will be full of good movies like this one.

    1. Thanks Evi! Happy New Year :) Can't wait to read your thoughts on Prisoners!

  2. So glad you liked this one. The acting really was perfect and you're so right, Deakins' cinematography was flawless from scene to scene, shot to shot. The cold look of the film is as much a character as any of the actors.