One of the best pieces of dramatic cinema I've seen in a long time, Prisoners is a film that will live on long after the credits roll.
The term ‘masterpiece’ is thrown around with films too liberally, and yet, I use it so rarely that I can’t recall the last time I used the word masterpiece to describe a film I watched. Prisoners is a masterpiece.
After a jovial holiday feast among neighbors and friends, two families must face certain heartbreak when the two youngest daughters from each home mysteriously go missing. Keller Dover and Franklin Birch, the fathers of each girl, know the fate for missing children and the importance of time in these cases. Frustrated by stagnant police work burdened by red tape and multiple leads, they take matters into their own hands, especially Keller Dover as he grapples with crossing every moralistic line for the sake of his family and child.
Prisoners is a dark film, both of subject matter and tone, so much so that I nearly did not watch the film and that would have been a grave misfortune. The mystery of Prisoners is vastly superior to its peers, leaving hints and evidence for the film to come with such sleight of hand that it is only apparent with a second viewing. For a mystery it manages to find the perfect balance of dark and brooding, complementary to the tone of the film, but is completely visually watchable.
The passion and connection of these characters is complex, vital to engaging the audience and making them hope, fear, and feel with the characters. Especially notable is Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Paul Dano who bring depth to potentially one-dimensional characters and emit a humanity that can be found in traces in all of us.
While the cast is raw, emotional and magical , the assemblage of talent would be for naught had it not been for the director Denis Villeneuve, writer Aaron Guzikowski and cinematographer Roger Deakins. The work of these three men so seamlessly blends into this fine film that it is difficult to discern where one’s efforts ends and the others begins.
Prisoners is a master stroke and bold statement for the future drama films that incorporate true crime and mystery.