Continuing on my film week ( only 2 film reviews Liam, chill out) we have Denis Villeneuve’ 2013 Crime Thriller ‘Prisoners’. Despite Prisoners being released 3 years ago now, it is one of those films that is never too old to rave about. Villeneuve brings together a flawless ensemble cast made up of Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Paul Dano, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis and more. This will also be the 2nd film review this week about a film with Dylan Minnette as a cast member (Alex from Don’t Breathe). On top of such a stellar cast, cinematography is down to the legendary Roger Deakins. So, at least on paper, Prisoners presents itself from the start as a film with undeniable prospects.
Before we get into that though, let me give you a brief plot summary. Prisoners sees Keller Dover and wife Grace, and Franklin and wife Nancy Birch meet for a thanksgiving dinner with both their families. However both Keller/Grace and Franklin/Nancy’s children Anna and Joy go out to play and before long go missing, along with a camper-van they were seen playing near. What ensues is a thrilling ride as they seek with the help of detective Loki to find their daughters, albeit with Keller taking a dramatic turn to aggression during his search. It is a story fraught with conflict, and the way our eyes are told to focus is incredibly interesting and original compared to most other crime thrillers.
As already mentioned, from the onset you already know it has the potential to be a great film from the ensemble cast and billing of Roger Deakins (No Country for Old Men, Shawshank Redemption) as cinematographer. So you go in with high expectations and it sort of briefly lowers them by setting up what seems a stereotypical ‘missing persons thriller’ only to later on raise your opinions again at a safer time. There’s conflict not only on the screen but also in our minds towards what we believe, whether we defend certain actions and our own belief over what’s happened.
Roger Deakins has made some of the most cinematically orgasmic cinematography of the thriller genre, if not his career. He excels, not only in the way he makes us feel the claustrophobia of much of the situation, but also in the loneliness of the wide shot. The colouring is gorgeous, and the setup has a incredible amount of detail to it. Much lighting seems to have come from available lighting, which personally is where some of my favourite shots have come from before, it can produce some incredible results.
The acting is real and stellar and despite the high profile nature of the stars, none seem to try to steal the spotlight with unnecessary dramatic ad libs or performances, even when it seems 75℅ of the cast are basically cameos. Hugh Jackman (X-Men, Les Miserables) yet again shows us just how versatile he can be with a character that is both likable and frustratingly loathable. His aggression is more than just shouting which is more than can be said for other actors in other films of this subject. We both feel sympathetic for his desperation to find his daughter, and disappointment in how he goes about it. Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Nightcrawler) shows us time and time again why it is that he is still so comfortably in this industry. His portrayal as the mysterious but dedicated detective Loki is one we both trust wholeheartedly with the case but also have a slight feeling that it is a misplaced trust. There’s something about him that seems wrong, and personally I always wondered if he had something to do with the case himself. This then allows to understand Keller even more in his own distrust for the police’s efforts. There are plenty other acting performances that are noteworthy such as Terrence Howard (Mr Hollands Opus, Winnie) as the loyal friend who is also incredibly wary of his actions, and Viola Davis (Doubt, The Help) as the devastated wife. HOWEVER I don’t want this to go on forever and you to stop reading out of boredom. So I’m going to focus my last acting mention on Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood). The man that is, arguably, one of the greatest actors of his generation and will be one of the future ‘legendary’ actors. Roles such as Leo DiCaprio in The Revenant and Ryan Gosling in Drive often get slated for being ‘easy’ roles in the sense that much of the acting happens in the quiet moments. I disagree heavily. It is much easier for an actor to be presented with a good script, full of lines to then deliver them in a performance worthy of an award. Not saying that they aren’t still full of effort, but the quieter roles can produce some of the most fantastic performances and that’s exactly what Paul Dano shows. Many of his best moments are in his subtle movements, and in the broken, but sinister tone of his voice when he does speak. His facial expressions are again ones we’re not sure whether to trust or not, and we see a character that is scary in ways we can’t quite explain.
Lastly the end was starting to worry me that it would deliver something flatter compared to the rest and that they were going to end on a highly unsatisfying note but then they did it perfectly. We weren’t presented an obvious answer, or something full of happiness and joy. We were given a situation where our brains were trying desperately to tell them something, and then as if by psychic ability it leads them there. We are given the truth through a brief conversation with 2 characters that gives us enough information about what will happen in the world after the movies but aren’t shown it. It’s simple and elegant and the movie deserves a place in the list of some of the best movies created.
Coming Next Week: Self Help/Advice week. Tuesday and Thursday will see posts on self help, the subject of which is yet to be decided. Comment or @ me at @LiamXavier95 if you have any suggestions!