TIFF Movie Review – Prisoners (2013)

Prisoners, 2013.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve.

Starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard, and Dylan Minnette.


When two young girls vanish one of their parents resorts to extreme measures to find them.
During a Thanksgiving dinner two young girls leave and do not come back causing their parents to go from being concerned to fearful.  The police are notified and a suspect is apprehended; however, there is not enough to hold him.  Hugh Jackman (The Wolverine) who portrays the father of one of the missing children goes ballistic and orchestrates the kidnapping and torture of the prime suspect.
A neat night time shot is when all of the flashlights are shining amongst the trees and the desperation drive to the hospital is well executed.  The ending is an improvement of the original screenplay where an audio cue takes over from a visual one.  Hugh Jackman and Jake Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain) take up most of the screen time while the other cast members live on the marginal edge.  It is a shame as Maria Bello (Thank You For Smoking) is such a fine actress worthy of a substantial role.  The performance of Jackman feels over-the-top yet how would a parent react under those horrifying circumstances?
The pacing is taunt, imagery great and there are plenty of twists.  Prisoners questions the usefulness of torture for extracting information and has missed an opportunity to explore a father and son relationship established in the beginning with the deer as the veteran teaches the rookie to hunt.  It is good that the tables get turned on Jackman as he has been control up to that point as it adds to the growing tension.  The trouble with the thriller is not with the production value but with the script itself as everything feels so conventional.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★  / Movie: ★ ★  

Trevor Hogg

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