Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Review: Prisoners

World of Blackout Film Review

Prisoners Poster

Prisoners (Spoiler-free)
Cert: 15 / 153 mins / Dir. Denis Villeneuve

Well, the good news is that Prisoners isn't quite the 2½ hour downer the trailer might suggest. I mean, it's still quite hard work, obviously, but Villeneuve ensures there's a tension which grips you, rather than a malaise which smothers. Most of the scenes in the trailer occur in the first act of the film, and once the girls have been confirmed as missing, a larger puzzle starts to appear. The main thread with the children is never put on the back burner, as such, but the backstory behind their abduction certainly comes to the fore as both families struggle to cope as best they can in their absence.

Now the opening act sets a very claustrophobic tone, focusing on the reactions of Jackman, Howard, Davis and Bello as the girls' parents (unfortunately Zoe Borde and Dylan Minnette get slightly shortchanged as the older children of each family), and it's suitably uncomfortable to watch as shock and panic set in while the police begin their investigations. Once Jake Gyllenhaal's Detective Loki becomes involved, the film becomes a little more like a standard Mystery Thriller, as clues and red herrings are laid out and things take a more disturbing turn as Jackman's Keller Dover begins to lose the plot. Also keeping the audience on its collective toes are Paul Dano, Melissa Leo and David Dastmalchian, all trying to out-weird each other, and all pretty much succeeding. The power of this film lies in the first watch, so avoid spoilers where possible*1.

At two and a half hours, it does start to creak under its weight a little, although nothing's deliberately dragged out, it's just not a ninety minute story. Director Denis Villeneuve and writer Aaron Guzikowski take great care to tease the plot out at its own speed, and make the audience complicit in some of the more disturbing scenes of the film, by virtue of witnessing them through the eyes of other characters. When it's exploring guilt, vigilantism, penance and vengeance, Prisoners is masterfully done; the rest of the time it's a solid (if reliable) thriller. If it doesn't force you to ask yourself some questions then you're probably not paying attention.

It's not an easy watch, and at many points it's reminiscent of a made-for-TV thriller, but Prisoners is saved by fantastic performances from Jackman, Gyllenhaal, Leo and Dano. It's not necessarily a cinema-movie, but recommended all the same.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
Kinda. The trailer only tells the opening act, though.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
I'm pretty sure it does.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
As good as it is, it's a DVD.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Will I watch it again?
At some point, maybe, but the first-watch is where the power lies.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There isn't.

And because you won't be happy until I've given it a score...

And my question for YOU is…
You'd think Wolverine and War Machine, working together, would have gotten to the bottom of it sooner though, wouldn't you?

*1 Also, don't be one of those people sitting second-guessing the film at every turn; Prisoners takes its own time in unravelling, and Marpling the plot doesn't make you a greater person. And it you absolutely must do it, don't sit in the row behind me and whisper your brain-commentary to whoever's sitting next to you and who only 'uh-hm's you instead of telling you to shut the hell up like they should. Because next time I'll turn around and punch you.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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