The word Horror is defined as; “An intense, painful feeling of repugnance and fear”. Hollywood has been haunted house happy, but then I witnessed something of true horror for every parent. What would you do if your child was kidnapped? In Prisoners, it’s the emotions and actions that the characters go through that makes this one of the best films of the year.
From the trailer of Prisoners, you were expecting extreme violence glorified in kind of a no holds barred Taken kind of fashion. FAR FROM IT! This is the kind of film that would make puzzle master director Christopher Nolan blush. Director Denis Villeneuve uses his 30 million budget to his advantage stripping anything involving overly-stylish camera shots, colorful cinematography, and over the top performances. He uses the authenticity of a cloudy Thanksgiving day where two families spend a holiday of thanks together which is usually the American stereotype, but when the plot begins its puzzle, he paints the atmosphere as bleak and the title “Prisoners” becomes the subject of each character within.
A title that spells out the irony of human emotion. Don’t laugh, though.
Hugh Jackman is Keller Dover, an blue-collar carpenter living in Western Pennsyvania with his wife, Grace (played by Maria Bello), his son Ralph (Dylan Minnette) and his daughter, Anna (Erin Girasimovich). They head over to the neighbors house to spend Thanksgiving with the Franklin and Nancy Birch played by Terrance Howard and Viola Davis. They also have two kids aside from the older daughter, Eliza (Zoe Soul) and their youngest Joy (Kyla Simmons). Suddenly, Anna and Joy are kidnapped. (and credit to Villeneuve for not showing how it happened, and making the audience paint their own picture) The detective on the case is Detective Loki (enough with the Thor jokes, jeez) played with vigorous versatility by Jake Gyllenhaal.
Throughout this film, we are built up believe that a kid only known as Alex (Paul Dano, in a creepy turn) was the one responsible for the kidnapping after Dover hears something suspect comes out of Alex’s mouth when released from custody. Dover realizes that he has to do something, his daughter is depending on him to find her. He brings Franklin along with to commit an act of anarchy to find answers, meanwhile trying to evade Detective Loki’s admired commitment to the case, even at a point where he tells his captain to (bleep) off and realize how far does he have to go to get the girls back.
We’re getting nominated for this. Tell Daniel Day-Lewis I said, hello.
Jackman as Dover is the stereotypical blue collar entrepreneur that works to put food on the table for his family and when something tries to interrupt the simplistic peace, he becomes a powder keg waiting to explode and when he does, you listen. He has intensity in his eyes and balances it with the pleading and sleep-deprived body language. You feel for Dover, because I won’t lie, when someone you love is attempted to be taken away, you do what it takes.
Meanwhile, I give credit to Howard’s passive aggressive rendition of Franklin. It’s the right combo of Yin/Yang that is needed, the one that doesn’t want to be there, but believes that it’s the only way his daughter is found as well. You will also be surprised by how the wives react to this and for some reason, I bought into it. I won’t spoil it for you but there is a character played by Melissa Leo that becomes an important piece of the film, but not until you LEAST expect it. It’s a performance that just adds to the uniformly excellent performances across the board. Gyllenhaal’s Loki has a little history with this case that helps with the mystery. He’s at times reserved, but it you push him or lie to him, he will take matters into his own hands even though he knows what he’s doing is sacrificing the integrity of the badge he carries.
WHERE ARE THEY?! Wait, where have I heard that line before? The Dark Knight, perhaps?
The screenplay by Aaron Guzikowki has a way of implying the details of the film and lets the human emotion and religious beliefs carry the weight of the story, and the cast was game for it, every step of the way. It has a way of being able to use realistic violence as necessity for anarchy, not as a ploy to show innovative creativity in stylized violence. By Oscar season, you will hear Prisoners being nominated for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress for Melissa Leo…trust me.
Prisoners is a flawless film that had more scares than any of the horror films that came out this year. Why? Because this tackles an event of true horror for parents, grandparents, or soon-to-be parents. Like I said earlier. What would you do if your kids were kidnapped? After seeing this, you will have a better understanding of how to prevent it.
Take a shot: Everytime you hear someone says “Where are they?”
Take a shot: Everytime you see Loki loses his cool
Shotgun a beer: Everytime Alex talks
(However, if you drink during this, you may get sick)