Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Video review: "Prisoners"
I often harp on the fact that I think most movies today are too long. And “Prisoners” is not a short flick: just a hair over 2½ hours. But it’s one of the rare films I think is exactly as long as it needed to be. It’s also one of my favorite cinematic experiences of 2013.
This psychological drama/thriller is wound tighter than an alarm clock ready to go off. Hugh Jackman and Terrence Howard play fathers and best friends whose daughters mysteriously disappear on Thanksgiving Day. Dover (Jackman) goes on a one-man crusade to follow any leads, frequently stepping on the toes of Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), the meticulous detective assigned to the case.
Suspicion quickly centers on Alex (Paul Dano), a mentally challenged man who drives an RV and barely talks. But the police have no evidence to link him to the kidnapping, so they let him go. When Dover takes matters into his own hands, it sets off a chain reaction of events with all sorts of tricky moral implications.
The characterizations are really deep and vivid, with even the supporting parts standing out. When you have performers the caliber of Viola Davis, Maria Bello and Melissa Leo in the cast, you know things are going to get interesting.
Director Denis Villeneuve (“Incendies”) and screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski give us one of the most ambitious films of the year, one that raises all sorts of head-scratching conundrums while resisting the urge to provide any easy answers. This is the sort of movie were parsing out the good guys from the bad is a difficult and ultimately pointless exercise.
Splendidly acted and well-told, “Prisoners” is one of the year’s best.
Video extras, which are the same for the DVD and Blu-ray editions, are sorely lacking. They both contain a pair of featurettes focusing on the story and performances, and that’s it.