This ‘out of nowhere’ movie about a kidnapping that will shake parents to the core is gaining a lot of support from writer Aaron Guzikowski. The writer of Contraband can thank Mark Wahlberg for taking a script that had little attention and driving it to the point we have a tension-filled masterpiece on screen. The mere thought of a child abduction would send many a parent into a tailspin. Think of a loved one and it doesn’t take much to relate and at that point, you have become vulnerable to Guzikowski’s pen.
Imagine for a moment your Thanksgiving dinner turns into anxiety and trauma as your six-year-old daughter and her friend from next door disappear after a suspicious vehicle is seen on your quiet suburban street. Hours turn into days as the two families implode searching within and without to find clues to the girl’s whereabouts.
Despite the attention of directors Bryan Singer and Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua as well as Christian Bale, and Leonardo DiCaprio it was Mark Wahlberg’s interest that pushed things along for Prisoners until Canadian director Denis Villeneuve was appointed to shoot Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal in the leads.
Jackman is intense as he plays a mid-west religious father, Keller Dover. A local builder with a bent on protecting his family down to the apocalypse-prepared basement in their home, Dover is a man with a past that contributes to his self-sufficiency. His determined strength is passed into the core of his family, teaching his eldest boy Ralph played by Dylan Minnette to shoot deer in case ‘the need arises’. In the supporting cast, we feel pain through the eyes of Mum, Grace, played by Maria Bello. At times comatose from the anguish we see the helplessness of all the key parties as they struggle to ask ‘what more can we do’?
The couple who are friends of the Dovers with their own daughter missing is played by powerhouse actors Terrence Howard and Viola Davis. They strengthen the emotional tooth-pulling that this movie exudes. Watch for some killer performances by Paul Dano as Alex Jones who is seen as the number one suspect in the search for the girls and Melissa Leo who provides the thread as his mother Holly.
With Gyllenhaal, we see the moody Detective Loki who doesn’t give up. Tracking down the worst scum bags is his bread and butter and telling the truth from a lie is an intuition he relies on but has he become tired and lost his edge. Gyllenhaal is a dog with a bone in this story prompting us to ask whether the Detective is on his game as time runs out and leads run dry.
As a movie Prisoners builds an incredible collection of imagery that begs the question of who is caught and who is the captor. What at first appears an easy drama of sorts moves to touch on our fears and then tortures the audience to ask how far we would go to punish the perpetrators. It walks some dangerous moral ground and asks you two key questions. “Do the ends justify the means?” and “How should the punishment fit the crime?”
Rating: R16 Violence, offensive language and content that may disturb