Prisoners (2013) – Denis Villeneuve

Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal star in the emotional thriller, Prisoners, featuring yet another magnetic turn by director Villeneuve. What starts out terrifyingly enough with the abduction of two little girls turns into something horrific as twists reveal true natures, and narratives slowly shift the viewer’s perspective on what they are seeing.

As two families gather to celebrate Thanksgiving none of them are prepared for where the day will take them. When both families have their young daughters abducted everyone is devastated. Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) turns his attention to the police’s first suspect, Alex (Paul Dano) when there is no evidence he has the mental capacity to even contemplate the crime.

As the families begin to crumble as the days pass, Keller refuses to give up his belief that his daughter is alive, but how far will he go, and how far is too far?

With commentary on vigilantism, police procedure, the traditional male role in the family, and social responsibility, Prisoners is a murky ride into a terrible situation where you can understand everyone’s motivations and wonder what your own actions do.

Loki (Gyllenhaal) the cop assigned to investigate the case has his hands full dealing with Keller as well as following leads, and there’s also a curious thing with religion going on here. We see and hear that both the abductors and the families they’ve stolen children from celebrate a Christian following, yet it’s a cop with the name of a Norse god that is in conflict with all of them.

There’s something to that I haven’t quite sussed out yet but enjoyed nonetheless.

Jackman is a powerhouse, and everyone around him from Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, and Maria Bello are his equal, bringing the pain of the families to life, but I find it interesting throughout that he’s so quick to point fingers at others in his effort to keep his family safe that he doesn’t take any responsibility for it himself.

He blasts Loki for following him instead of other leads, but it was Keller’s interference with the case that necessitated his being followed. It’s really interesting to watch because you can understand the pain he’s going through, but the lengths he goes to… wow.

This is an excellent and powerful film, and while I’m glad I saw it, I can’t say I’m rushing out to see it again. There’s something about it that gets under your skin as you see the way people treat one another, how the way someone looks at a situation can skew their perspective from what is really there. And ultimately that lack of insight into others costs everyone.

It’s an unnerving watch, and further cements my love of Villeneuve as a director.

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