In review: The Prisoners

After the conclusion of the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, movie goers are looking to cast their eyes on the next crop of Oscar worthy films heading into the Autumn season, and it all started off with the fresh release of Prisoners this past weekend.

The new film, which is directed by Canadian Denis Villeneuve, is filled with plenty of star power, including the likes of Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, and Melissa Leo.

Take this cast, and combine it with Villeneuve’s steady hand at direction, and you have a film that proves to be the best thriller in the past few months.

The plot revolves around two suburban families, the Dover’s (Jackman’s family) and the Birch’s (Howard’s family), who gather to share a friendly dinner with each other, until tragedy strikes when their two young daughters are kidnapped. The suspected kidnapper is Paul Dano, who turns in a creepy and disturbing performance as Alex Jones, the sheltered and quiet son of Holly Jones, played by Leo. Soon after the kids are reported missing, Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) takes the case and struggles to unravel the mystery that seems to have no explanation.

As the investigation continues, the anxiety of the film surrounding the disappearance of the children heightens for the viewer, but as the mystery unfolds a few plot holes emerge. Fortunately, thanks to a few noteworthy performances from Jackman and Gyllenhaal that stick out amongst the rest of the cast, it was easy ignore the crucial clues in the case that surfaced all but too easily in order to move the narrative forward towards a gripping finale.

With respect to comparison, the movie feels closest to one of Gyllenhaal’s other suspenseful films, the 2007 crime drama Zodiac, directed by David Fincher. Both films induce strong feelings of suspense, and present a tight atmosphere that seems to close in around the viewer as the time ticks against its characters. Prisoners is a film that pushes the envelope regarding the boundaries of the law and one’s morals, both in times of need and when push comes to shove when one’s family is involved.

Moreover, after a relatively weak summer at the theatres with a series of brainless films and box office blunders, Prisoners is a welcome entry with award season in full swing.

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