Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Move aside, ‘Seven’.
Here is an edge-of-the seat psychological thriller that will certainly be talked about in the coming months.
And not just because it is the first of many movies that will be released in the run-up to the Oscars early next year.
Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and his family are celebrating Thanksgiving with their family friends, the Birches (Terrence Howard and Hope Davis) when the seven-year-old daughters from both families go missing.
Following a tip from Keller's son about a recreational vehicle in which the two girls were last seen, the police and lead detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) apprehend a suspect, the mysterious Alex Jones.
The enigmatic suspect is played by Paul Dano, who's no stranger to such roles
As the days and hours wear on, Keller becomes more desperate, eventually butting heads with Loki and taking the law into his own hands by holding the suspect captive.
Moving the film along at a steady pace, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, who was previously nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for his work on ‘Incendies’, takes his time to drop clues and to firmly establish the characters of both leading men.
This is methodical and deliberate storytelling at its best, as clues and red herrings are sprinkled throughout the movie in a savvy manner.
The viewer will try to keep up with Loki and Keller in linking everything together, though nothing seemingly makes sense right up until the end.
This is a classic suspense thriller because nothing is ever quite what it appears to be.
The cinematography work by Roger Deakins, which gives off a vibe of unnerving stillness, ratchets up the tension tenfold, and leaves the viewer with a lingering feeling of dread, with every frame possessing the potential to shock us.
There are things you can spot in the wide-angle shots of the small-town setting, how it has clearly been battered by recession and how fear is gripping the community where everyone knows each other.
The differing approaches taken by the two men in pursuit of the same thing illuminates the struggles of facing moral dilemmas during times of crisis.
Expect a world-class performance from the charismatic Hugh Jackman
Jackman delivers an intensely emotional performance, a father who is pushed to his limits by his young daughter's disappearance and will do whatever it takes to get her back. This is easily Jackman’s best onscreen performance of his career thus far, well worth talk of an Oscar nomination.
Gyllenhaal, who has been playing streetwise cops since last year's ‘End Of Watch’, is perfect as the wisecracking, tough-as-nails, stick-by-the-rules foil to Jackman’s character.
‘Prisoners’ doesn't do anything new for the thriller genre in the sense that the missing-child storyline has been done before.
However, the movie’s winning point is how it is so well-put-together, and the performances of the ensemble cast really make it a worthwhile watch, putting it right alongside classics such as David Fincher’s ‘Seven’.
You will be breathing heavily when the end credits start rolling, finally able to take your eyes and mind off this wonderfully executed movie. A must-see.