Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Terrence Howard, Maria Belo, Viola Davis and Melissa Leo
Review Written By: Michael Dalton (Prime Minister)
Prisoners is an incredibly tense, gripping and dark film. While it is overly long at two and a half hours, never are you bored despite the majority of the film being relatively still, somber and dialogue driven. Aaron Guzikowski’s script and Denis Villeneuve’s direction sucks you in and has you fully engrossed every step of the way. Additionally the film boasts one of the best casts of the year and all of the performers keep you engaged and emotionally invested in this heavy story. While the ultimate reveal may be quite silly and weak, the film as a whole is very serious and strong, with Jake Gyllenhaal in particular giving one of his best performances.
One thing that is immediately striking about Prisoners is its atmosphere and aesthetic. Set during the winter months, Prisoners has a very cold, decaying look and feel throughout. Director Denis Villeneuve moves the story along slowly and patiently, with him frequently electing to minimize sound, demonstrating how quietness can be just as, if not more involving, than the more bombastic approach that is frequently taken by directors today. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is instrumental in creating this tone and atmosphere. One of the best cinematographers in the game, Deakins lends this film a haunting, gothic beauty, providing us with some brilliantly lit shots. In regards to the imagery, Prisoners may have one of the years more horrifying images, when the full effect of Dover’s treatment towards Jones is revealed.
Hugh Jackman’s performance is the one that is understandably been garnering the most critical acclaim, however whilst I found the performance to contain an impressive intensity, I also felt as if there was more that could have been done with that character. Gyllenhaal’s performance is the one that stood out most to me, with his twitches and tattoos, Gyllenhaal adds a life to a character that could have easily been rather one-note. He is thoroughly believable and incredibly watchable and is in my eyes the true star and lead of the film. Paul Dano gives a performance that is well in his ‘crazy person’ wheelhouse however continues to demonstrate that nobody does disturbed quite like him. It is a performance that should be applauded due to the fact that it is a relatively silent one yet a completely unnerving one. Terrence Howard is another performer who also may not get the credit he deserves, whose moral quandaries are perhaps more effectively explored than the other characters, with him struggling to accept the way in which those around him are behaving, yet powerless to stop it. Maria Belo and Viola Davis are both rather underserved and underutilized as the two mothers of the piece.
The screenplay is for the most part well written however there are moments that stretch both credibility and plausibility. This is most striking late in the third act, when the truth is revealed, a revelation I found quite stupid, though the film did not lose me due to the way in which the rest of the film had engaged me and the strength of the performances. Despite this however, the very final scene is absolutely fantastic and one of the best endings of the year.
Ultimately Prisoners is an incredibly engaging, dark, well-made and well acted film, that has one of the year’s most horrifying images and one of the year’s most perfect endings. A slightly zippier running time and a less silly explanation is all that prevents Prisoners from reaching greatness.
Movie Parliament Rating: MAJORITY GOVERNMENT
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister, Michael Dalton
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