'Prisoners' keeps knuckles white from start to finish

Denis Villeneuve's 'Prisoners' changes the meaning of child abduction movies and pushes the detective genre. The film screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Prisoners is a perfect film for drama-loving masochists. Grief and injustice dominate the plot as a crude reminder that bad things happen to good people, but the film does so in a way where you cannot blink, let alone go to the bathroom, until the end.

The trailer was an unfortunate false advertisement of the film. It gives little justice to the intellectual thriller of fist-clenching tension, which kept the theater jumping at every unexpected turn.

In other words, be prepared to flinch.

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard) are celebrating Thanksgiving together with their families when their daughters go missing. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a loner investigating the abduction, but the main suspect Alex Jones (Paul Dano) cannot be withheld by the law, leaving Keller no other option than to kidnap and torture him.



The constant illusion that the crime is soon to be solved is something the audience quickly learns to hate, but at the same time, learns to love. The torturous curiosity fuels the mystery and reality of child abductions without hesitation.

The first half of the film was predictable: crying parents overwhelmed with anger and despair. There are enough crucifixes and metaphors to provoke intellectual foreshadowing of a deeper conflict. There’s the side of the parents and the side of the police, both fighting for the same thing, but one limited by religious morality and the other by the law.

It is the second half that makes this movie stand out from a generic police investigation to an intricate story of the detective and a father. Both struggle with why and how far they will go in order to find the missing girls. Jackman’s performance vibrates with a fuming energy of impotence, testing his faith with God and forcing apathy and frustration to radiate from the screen.

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