Sunday, September 29, 2013

Review: Prisoners

Copyright: Warner Bros.
A quiet, eerie sense follows the experience of watching Prisoners. This may seem perfectly natural, because this movie covers the topic of child abduction and violence that comes out of it. But, in spite of that, this uneasy feeling somehow lies in a deeper place, beyond the pain and anguish depicted by the main characters from two families, driven mad by the search for their missing daughters. This place transcends the circumstances and the current horrible times these families find themselves in and presents a form that is true to our natural state, cleared of all social bonds, where a father does everything imaginable to save his child.

It’s hard for me to decide who did a better job – Jake Gyllenhaal as a troubled detective Loki or Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover, the father that refused to give. Instead, after his little girl Anna, alongside her friend Joy from a neighboring family  went missing one afternoon without a trace, Dover decides to choose more drastic measures. Only clue in the case is a worn down RV that was parked nearby – in a matter of hours, police find the vehicle and its driver, a man who apparently has an IQ of a 10-year-old and who tells the authorities nothing. Having no other options, the detectives release Alex. Keller, mad from grief and complacency, decides to do something about it.

From the fist scene, this movie impresses – in it, a calm winter woodland is disturbed only by a grazing deer. For a few seconds, the animal moves slowly and gracefully between the pines, and everything looks peaceful and serene. Then, as the camera starts to pull out, a blurred gun nozzle starts to slowly appear in one corner.

It takes less than a minute for director Denis Villeneuve to presents a clean cut vision of horrible deeds done by regular men and women, but not in a gory sense. Here, usual people transform into unwilling monsters, merciless and driven to a point of sadism. His blunt cinematography does much to focus all energy of the plot on the actors, while everything around them remains perfectly normal and even boringly standard. In this movie there are no torture chambers and lampshades made form human skin. In Prisoners, even the houses of serial killers look like another house down the street.

An actor that will almost certainly get  overlooked in this film is Paul Dano. Dano had many fantastically creepy and diverse roles in his career, but he shines in this movie as much as Gyllenhaal and Jackman. In some manner, his ability to present Alex as ambiguous as possible gives the space and weight for the crucial dilemma of the film.

In some aspect, Prisoners reminded me of The Pledge, but in many other ways, Prisoners is a unique piece of art, dealing in feelings we usually try to ignore. In its runtime of 153 minutes, it never lost me, neither by pace or by emotion.