prisonersThis is usually the time of year in which the “good” films start coming out.  Of course, there are sometimes a couple of surprise films that come earlier in the year, but definitely the bulk of future Oscar nominated films come out in the fall/winter. Quebec director Denis Villeneuve’s (Incendies, Polytechnique) latest film signals the beginning of this anticipated season for film buffs.

The Dovers go over to their friends the Birchs for dinner.  Over the course of the evening the families two youngest members, Anna Dover (Erin Gerasimovich – first film) and Joy Birch (Kyla Drew Simmons – Parental Guidance), disappear.  The two young girls have gone over to the Dovers house to try and find Anna’s whistle.  They were supposed to ask older siblings, Ralph (Dylan Minnette – Let Me In) and Eliza (Zoe Borde – first film), to accompany them, but didn’t.  Now they are gone.

The police are called and a search begins.  Ralph has remembered that an RV was parked on the Birch’s street earlier on the evening in question and that the girls were both very interested in it as they walked past.  The police, led by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal – Brokeback Mountain, Donnie Darko), have tracked down the RV and surround it only to have the driver drive it into a tree trying to escape.

Alex Jones (Paul Dano – Little Miss Sunshine, Looper) is arrested and questioned about the disappearance of the two girls.  He is a young man with the IQ of a 10-year-old and claims to know nothing about the two girls or their disappearance.  Due to a lack of evidence Loki has to release Alex.  Anna’s father Keller (Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables, X-Men) is convinced that Alex is responsible for the young girls’ disappearance and so when he sees the police let him go Keller decides to take things into his own hands.  He is a father who will go to any lengths to get his daughter back.

The disappearance of a child and frantic parents trying to find them is not a new story.  This film manages to take a fresh look at an age old story.  It makes you question your way of thinking, your limits and what a situation like this could make you do.  I don’t think there are many of us who could guarantee that they would not do what Keller did if they faced the same situation.  It brings up all kinds of emotions and moral dilemmas.

Each member of the film from director Villeneuve to the ensemble cast really shines in this dark film.  In lesser hands it would have been a whole lot less effective and realistic.  Villeneuve keeps the film with a long run time (153 minutes) tight and focused.  As for the tension it is off the charts.  Your body might feel a little beaten up after sitting through Prisoners.  It captures your attention from the moment the girls disappear and keeps a hold on it until the end.  The cast does a great job with Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackson really shining.  Even Paul Dano, who has a difficult role that demanded tons of subtlety, shows his range.

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