If you ask me Denis Villenueve‘s Prisoners (Warner Bros., 9.20) has been a little bit over-hyped by critics. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a moody, riveting, well-crafted thriller by a director who’s obviously a cut or two above the norm and is into complexity and adult stuff. Set in the grimmest, coldest, rainiest part of Bumblefuck, Pennsylvania you’ll ever not want to visit, 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, Terrence Howard) to find them. Although not in synch, of course.
Aimed more at critics than ticket buyers, Prisoners is one of those thoughtfully murky, atmospheric, 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 murky as hell and somewhat difficult to follow, but that’s par for the course, I suppose. It’s one of those melodramas that elitists love for the look and the vibe and the aroma, and which isn’t about catching the proverbial bad guy as much as meditations about the evil in everyday life and the high cost of vengeance and how so much of life is a maze of false leads leading to a series of cul-de-sacs. It’s glum bowl. Women will avoid it 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 is to say one that 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. 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.