4.5/5 MUST must see SEE
dir Denis Villeneuve
scr Aaron Guzikowski
prd Kira Davis, Broderick Johnson, Adam Kolbrenner, Andrew A Kosove
with Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, David Dastmalchian, Dylan Minnette, Zoe Soul, Erin Gerasimovich, Kyla Drew Simmons
release US 20.Sep.13, UK 27.Sep.13
13/US 2h33
On the case: Gyllenhaal and Jackman

howard davis bello
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Prisoners A vivid reminder of the value of patience in storytelling, this exquisitely assembled thriller takes its time to reveal every wrinkle and character. And much of what we see is up to us to interpret. This fable-like approach allows the actors to deliver intricate performances while involving us fully in everything that happens.

After celebrating Thanksgiving together in rural Pennsylvania, the Dovers and Birches are shocked to discover their young daughters are missing. Scouring the neighbourhood, parents Keller and Grace (Jackman and Bello) and Franklin and Nancy (Howard and Davis) are at their wits' end. Local detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) is on the case and quickly settles on an oddball (Dano) as a suspect, then has to let him go when he can't find any evidence. But Keller can't bear to think of him on the loose while their daughters are still missing.

Guzikowski's script asks us to take several things on faith, only hinting at back-stories as each person reacts in strikingly different ways. There are quite a few key characters, but the focus remains tightly on Jackman's frantic father, a typically American collision of religious beliefs, a love of guns and a need for justice or revenge, hopefully both. Yes, he believes Taken is the template for responding to a kidnapping. As we feel his dark emotions, he's easily the scariest person here.

He's also beautifully matched at every step by Gyllenhaal as a cool-headed cop who never misses a trick (except one rather glaring clue). His scenes with Jackman crackle with tension. And Howard also excels as the more emotionally balanced but equally struggling dad. By contrast, Davis only has a few key moments, while Bello's character spends much of the story in a drugged stupor. Leo, on the other hand, is utterly unnerving as a woman with family issues of her own.

All of this unfolds with steady precision in a bleak setting that's expertly photographed by Roger Deakins. A scene in which the driving rain shifts to snow is simply stunning, as are the heart-stoppingly realistic action sequences. And by refusing to indulge in cliches while keeping the tone wrenchingly personal, director Villeneuve generates profound resonance, tightly holding our attention for two and a half hours while forcing us to explore our own motivations and reactions.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 18.Sep.13

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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall