Denis Villenueve‘s Prisoners (Warner Bros., 9.20) “has been a little over-hyped by critics,” I wrote on 8.31 from Telluride. “Don’t get me wrong — this is a moody, meandering, well-crafted thriller by a director who’s obviously a cut or two above the norm. It’s anything but standard issue. Set in the grimmest, coldest, rainiest part of Bumblefuck, Pennsylvania, the story (written by Aaron Guzikowski) is about the kidnapping of two young girls and the efforts of a lone-wolf cop (Jake Gyllenhaal) and the girls’ vigilante-minded dads (Hugh Jackman and to a lesser extent Terrence Howard) to find them. Not in synch, of course.
West 54th just west of Sixth Avenue. Taken this morning — Friday, 9.20 — at 11:25 am.
“Aimed more at critics than ticket buyers, Prisoners is one of those thoughtfully murky, Fincherian, densely plotted thrillers that’s more about the journey than than the destination. Because when you get to the end it’s like ‘uhm…wait, what?’ That was my reaction, at least.
“To me Prisoners seemed overly dense and difficult to follow, but that’s par for the course, I suppose. It’s one of those melodramas that elitists love for the dank look and the vibe and the sprawling aroma, and which isn’t about catching the proverbial bad guy as much as meditations about (a) the evil in everyday life, (b) the high cost of vengeance and (c) how so much of life is a maze of false leads leading to a series of cul-de-sacs.
“Women will avoid Prisoners like the plague, I expect, but the producers had to know that going in.
“The performances are about as good as they can get in a thing like this, which demands lots of glum intensity from everyone top to bottom. And a certain amount of weeping and shouting and dashboard-pounding.
“You don’t want to go nuts and play the vigilante card in too much of a renegade, loose-cannon fashion. That’s one of the rhetorical or thematic takeaways.
“I’m lost in this review. I don’t know what I’m saying or feeling except that I felt more respectful and ‘interested’ than aroused and/or turned on.
“Gyllenhaal and Jackman deliver in intriguing, atypical ways. Gyllenhaal especially — he doesn’t seem capable these days of being rote or lazy or anything but on it. Costars Paul Dano (playing another creepo) and Melissa Leo are also worth the price. Viola Davis and Maria Bello have smallish roles, but…I don’t know what the fuck I’m saying. I know less and less about who I am or who anyone else is.
“There was something wrong with the sound at the Palm. (And don’t tell me it’s my ears — I’ve heard each and every film perfectly so far.) I kept missing what people were saying. When I heard a word it was like ‘Whoa, I heard a word!’ When I heard a complete sentence it was almost cause for celebration.”