The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar


Weekend to-do list
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.
Published: Friday, September 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Suspense, dread never let up in 'Prisoners'

  • Jake Gyllenhaal plays an eccentric detective looking for kidnapped children in "Prisoners."

    Wilson Webb / Warner Bros. Pictures

    Jake Gyllenhaal plays an eccentric detective looking for kidnapped children in "Prisoners."

  • Hugh Jackman (left) is the vigilante father of a kidnapped child and Paul Dano is a suspect in "Prisoners."

    Wilson Webb / Warner Bros. Pictures

    Hugh Jackman (left) is the vigilante father of a kidnapped child and Paul Dano is a suspect in "Prisoners."

Two children have vanished -- and that is more than enough to sustain "Prisoners" through 2½ hours of suspense and dogged detective work.
The movie's not exactly subtle, but it is refreshingly deliberate and well-paced in unraveling its dire situation.
The two little girls disappear on Thanksgiving, in a blandly ordinary neighborhood, and the search unfolds over the next few days.
A rather eccentric detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) uncovers a bizarre collection of clues, but no actual kidnapper. The prime suspect, a developmentally disabled man (Paul Dano), is released for lack of evidence.
This infuriates the father (Hugh Jackman) of one of the missing kids, and he decides to take the investigation into his own hands.
Screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski puts the weight on Jackman's character, which unfortunately makes the three other parents -- played by the excellent Maria Bello, Terrence Howard and Viola Davis -- less integral to the story.
The vigilante-justice angle is not quite as thought-provoking as the moviemakers seem to think it is, but the overall puzzle, and the dank atmosphere (shot in Georgia), provides many moments of anxiety.
Viewers may get a flashback or two to "Zodiac," as once again Jake Gyllenhaal is perpetually exploring dark basements that might hold some terrible clue.
Gyllenhaal turns in a busy performance (he has given his character a facial tic), but his tendency to remain silent during emotionally charged scenes is effective. Jackman plays his role straight on, as always, and we have little problem believing this guy exists.
Melissa Leo, the Oscar-winner for "The Fighter," does fine-tuned work as Dano's aunt.
Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, who steered the impossibly overwrought "Incendies" to a foreign-language film Oscar nomination a few years ago, is more in control of the frequently lurid material here. Because the film moves along with a steady tread, you might not notice how certain key moments are left offscreen -- an effective way of propelling the plot.
The first-class cinematographer, Roger Deakins, captures the way an apparently civilized American town might have strange little pockets where people could simply disappear off the grid. No wonder the basements are places of edgy expectation -- in "Prisoners," you never know what you might find there.
"Prisoners" (3 stars)
A suspenseful search for two missing children, during which the investigation by an eccentric detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) is complicated by a vigilante-minded father (Hugh Jackman). Director Denis Villeneuve stays in control of some fairly lurid material, to the point that every time somebody steps down into a basement, you expect the worst.
Rated: R for violence, language.
Showing: Alderwood 7, Cinebarre, Edmonds, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Varsity, Woodinville, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor.
Story tags » Movies

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

loading...

HeraldNet highlights

An untapped market
An untapped market: Sound to Summit is first brewery taproom in Snohomish
Remembering Jerry
Remembering Jerry: EvCC groundskeeper Gerald Olmstead was always happy
Saving the trees
Saving the trees: Learn from arborist how to keep your trees healthy
So far, little snow
So far, little snow: But in 1871, it was a different story
SnoCoSocial