Review: Prisoners

Mind-boggling, visceral, psychopathic, awful, yet mesmerising. Lella lets us in on why Prisoners should be your one to watch.

From the outside, Prisoners looks like any other ‘our beloved vulnerable relative has gone missing’ movie, but it’s in your best interest to go into this one with an open mind.

It’s the newest effort from Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, who regardless of only having released five feature-length films is definitely no amateur, his previous film Incendies was even up for an Oscar in 2011.

The film is about two girls that go missing and the pursuit that follows, but I feel that the merit of this film isn’t in the story. The most important and unique part of Prisoners is how well it captures the psychology and emotional collapse of everyone involved in such a disturbing tragedy: the kidnapping of a young child.

The viewer is made to question every single character, not always as a potential suspect crime but their overall mental state. It’s a hell of a rollercoaster.

At times, the story is so packed full of possible directions that I felt I was watching the visual manifestation of a psychopath writing his diary at gunpoint, trying to fit in everything before the trigger was pulled. Fortunately though, as long and winding as the film is, it will never have anything less than your full attention.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman both give stunning performances here. Usually, I can’t stand Jackman and his mundane beefcake roles, but here I was pleasantly surprised at how much depth his character has. It develops tangibly in every scene, from the well-meaning Average-Joe to a mentally-unstable-bordering-on sadist.

Gyllenhaal demonstrates, once again, why his praise is so consistent in the film industry (at least from people with any sense. Maybe that’s just me being biased.) I think he makes it his business not to ever play the same character twice and he does so well every time.

Prisoners is awfully visceral, so much so that it’s hard to watch at times. As hard as it is, though, the crew behind it successfully made it into one of those horrible accidents that you can’t stand to watch but you can’t bring yourself to tear your eyes away from.

As disturbing as it is, as a whole it’s a weirdly satisfying and mind-boggling pleasure, so much that I now feel like a sadist having written that. It surprised me at every opportunity.

Yes, I know it seems the poster is marketing the film as the new Taken, with Jackman and Gyllenhaal looking ridiculously brooding and silly. But there’s so much more to it that that; you really don’t want to miss it.

★★★★☆

Lella Pelaou

 Prisoners is out now.

 

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