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“Prisoners” – Review (POSITIVE)

October 14, 2013

Screen shot 2013-10-14 at 9.02.38 PMI have been a fan of French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s work ever since I was introduced to his bleak school shooting drama “Polytechnique”. The man has this incredible eye for the camera, where to take it, where to show us the right kind of emotion, and to have him team with one of the great cinematographers (Roger Deakins) working today on his first American feature is nothing short of impressive. 

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is facing every parent’s worst nightmare. His six-year-old daughter, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich), is missing, together with her young friend, Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons), and as minutes turn to hours, panic sets in. The only lead is a broken-down RV that had earlier been parked on their street. Heading the investigation, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrests its driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), but a lack of evidence forces his release. As the police pursue multiple leads and pressure mounts, knowing his child’s life is at stake the frantic Dover decides he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands. But just how far will this desperate father go to protect his family?

Yes, this is Villeneuve’s first American feature, and for me this was a welcoming premiere for my eyes, but does his style translate for American audiences? Yes. He’s created a mystery thriller that will stand the test of time for  a while, merging elements of his own stylings, and familiar ones from other crime thrillers of cinema’s past. If there was any sort of comparison I could pair this movie with, it would be Fincher’s “Se7en”. This is a brutal, BRUTAL movie, not only is it every parents anti-family movie outing, but the elements it toys with are scary and psychotic.

There’s great mixtures of themes and motifs that send the message across, the aspect of religion and mythology play an important part in telling the story. The fact that both families names are Dover and Birch…the dove has played important symbolisms in the bible. There’s a brief reference most will not catch regarding Matthew 10:16 — “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Screen shot 2013-10-14 at 9.02.31 PMThe fact that the name of the detective heading the investigation is named after a mischievous Norse God also chimes into interesting theories. Detective Loki is a bit of a wild card throughout the film, he shows off these nervous tickets in his face and has an odd way of breaking the levity with his facetious mentality. A few questions are left behind by the end of the film regarding Loki, his intentions were just no doubt, but it begs the question if there were alternative motives. Like the God, Det. Loki also had a bad childhood, orphaned at a young age, and his innocence taken away from him.

These are the kinds of things I love to find a film, Denis Villeneuve masterfully directs this film to a T, sure it may be a tag too long in some parts, and as soon as the biggest clue is revealed 3/4 of the way in, you pretty much figure who did it, but the ride, the experience is nothing short of intense. This is, without hesitation, one of the most intense films of 2013. Keep your eyes out for Denis, he’s going to bring this country more impressive work.

Grade: A-

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