Dennis Villeneuve previously struck me with his powerful retelling of the 1989 Montreal Massacre in Polytechnique, and here he goes one level further to craft a thriller with the most unbearable tension I’ve experienced in a film of the sort since Zodiac. It’s an absorbing, near hypnotic tale of child abduction and all the suspicious figures involved, but Villeneueve’s precision allows Prisoners to excel itself and rank alongside the aforementioned David Fincher masterpiece.
We’re pulled into the lives of these families, seen practically joined at the hip by their attitude to one another, before the inevitable kidnapping takes place. Villeneuve shies away from detailing anything besides some heavy breathing in an RV just prior to pulling the hearts right out of the children’s family. He provides the frantic searching and the eventual pain suffered by the family, magnificently handled by a never better Hugh Jackman. An excellent talent who unfortunately doesn’t take up these heavy roles enough displays real presence in not only the delivery of his dialogue, but the thunderous emotion in his eyes and body language.
Whilst Jackman is devastating Prisoners belongs to the frightening work from one Jake Gyllenhaal. As Loki, the detective assigned to the case, he shows a dark chaos in his mannerisms. He’s battling his own demons outside of this case; Gyllenhaal playing off them all in intimidating style and suffocating the viewer into essentially fearing this “angel of death” figure more so than the suspected criminals. It’s a performance of heavy chills and a showcase for the range of Gyllenhaal, someone who I’ve been a fan of since his breakout role in Donnie Darko.
Prisoners is a threatening piece of cinema, one which works not only because of those performances but the intelligence of the screenplay. It’s magnetic and exhilarating, providing Prisoners with a real force in the way it handles twists and unravels mysteries. Deakins is there to shoot with the assured atmosphere his cinematography has become known for.