Oscars outcast, but well worth a watch: ‘Prisoners’ directed by Denis Villeneuve

7 Posted by - January 18, 2014 - film, riveting

This film’s a ripper of a whodunnit. A crime occurs, a seasoned detective comes on the scene, and we’re all taken on a whirlwind ride to bust the bad guy. But this whodunnit does much more than keep you on the edge of your seat (or sofa for that matter).

"Prisoners" 2013 directed by Denis Villeneuve

Arguably the real star of the film: Jake Gyllenhaal’s facial tick. You’ll know what I mean…

This intricately crafted film stayed with me long after the screen dimmed. Though a tad on the long side (153 minutes) the film is pretty much perfectly paced and never feels tedious or over indulgent on the part of the director. It’s a little tricky to go into too much depth about this one without giving anything away, but let’s just say it’s a thriller of a ride with a hell of a lot going for it, including:

1. A killer cast.

The actors’ performances? Stellar. All of ’em. Hugh Jackman does butch patriarch with a vengeance. Literally. Workaholic detective with a troubled past oozes out of Jake Gyllenhaal’s every pore, and Paul Dano gets in on the action too playing a disturbed outsider with the rock-star commitment that we’ve come to expect from him.

"Prisoners" 2013 directed by Denis Villeneuve

Hugh Jackman does butch patriarch with a vengeance. Literally.

The merciless weather in "Prisoners" 2013 directed by Denis Villeneuve

Cinematographer Richard Deakins uses weather to great effect throughout the film.

2. Atmospheric weather. Lots of it.

You could describe the weather in Prisoners as a character in the movie. It adds a lush ominousness to the action that never feels contrived or Hollywood-rain-machine-ey. The overall look of the film is gorgeous to watch, and beautifully realised. If you’re interested, here’s a great article about cinematographer Richard Deakins’ vision for the film.     

2. It asks questions, but doesn’t get all cheesy and obvious by answering them.

There’s a real moral conundrum at the heart of this film; one that may just stay with you for a while afterwards. But, preachy messages are nowhere in sight. And the films all the better for it.

3. Artful symbolism.

The indoctrination of violence. Power. Torture. Imprisonment. Animals are masterly woven into the film to convey these themes. An unassuming deer. A girl’s pet rodent. A little dog. Snakes… lots of em. Keep your eyes peeled…  

Melissa Leo and Paul Dano in "Prisoners" directed by Denis Villeneuve

Paul Dano plays a disturbed outsider with the rock-star commitment that we’ve come to expect from him.

3. Ambiguous endings.

If you’re the kind of movie-fan that likes a nice, clean, sutured-up plot-lines, this isn’t the film for you. Though entranced throughout, my movie date was left rather unsatisfied by the end credits. Me? Not so. After all, life isn’t always neatly packed boxes anyway.

Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) celebrates Thanksgiving

Detective Loki (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) celebrates Thanksgiving.


Initial release: September 20, 2013 (USA)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Runtime: 153 minutes
Screenplay: Aaron Guzikowski
Cinematography: Roger Deakins
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis

Check out the official trailer below:

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