As the late Roger Ebert would say, “Two thumbs way up.”
“Prisoners” is an intense as all hell thriller-drama that gives you what every thriller should: plot twists, great acting and a wicked ending that leaves you either speechless or clapping.
“Prisoners” takes place in a working-class town in Pennsylvania, where two girls are abducted after they are last seen playing on an RV. This leads to a police investigation headed by a detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a religious father (Hugh Jackman) who grows impatient and makes decisions that affect him and his family.
This movie comes as the first American film for French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, and he enters the American film world with a bang.
But you will not find a better all around cast performance in any other movie this year than you will in “Prisoners.” Like in “Se7en” or “Mystic River,” two classic psychological thrillers from the last 20 years, great acting is required for a movie like this. And all across the board, the acting is outstanding.
Let’s start with Gyllenhaal, who I think owes this role to director David Fincher who casted him in the 2007 film “Zodiac,” where Gyllenhaal played a cartoonist-turned-detective trying to solve the Zodiac killer in San Francisco.
Gyllenhaal is on a good run. This movie comes after last year’s crime drama “End of Watch,” in which Gyllenhaal gave a great performance as an L.A. police officer. In “Prisoners,” Gyllenhaal does an amazing job of portraying the emotional effects of the police investigation on him as a detective and the outside pressure of the affected families.
But the movie would be nothing without the strongest performance of Jackman’s career. Jackman plays the role of a parent’s worst nightmare. After his daughter is abducted, he grows impatient with the police investigation, so he takes matters into his own hands.
This role reminds me of Sean Penn’s role as Jimmy Markum in the 2003 film “Mystic River,” directed by Clint Eastwood.
Penn, who won the Academy Award for Best Actor, played a similar role to that of Jackman’s, both of whom are clouded by anger, sadness, frustration and make decisions that impact their lives greatly.
Jackman does an excellent job of portraying the madness created by his daughter’s abduction, and like Penn’s performance, is award-winning material.
But there are also great performances that come out of the supporting cast as well. Maria Bello, Viola Davis and Terrence Howard, all of whom have Oscar nominations to their credit, play powerful roles as the emotionally-distressed parents of the abducted daughters.
Paul Dano also delivers one of his best performances, as he is accused of being the child abductor.
If you’re into a gritty crime thriller or just like good movies, go. One of the best movies of the year.