One feeling kept me going throughout the entire time I watched the film Prisoners: FEAR. At over two and a half hours, you would think that I could not possibly have been afraid for the entire film. Well, I was. And, most likely, you will be too.
In addition to instilling fear from minute one, Prisoners also continually surprised me. I thought it was going to be just a simple revenge movie. But, this is so much more than that. Filled with leaps and twists and unexpected turns around every corner, Prisoners is more than a thriller. It is an adrenaline ride.
Aside from the story, much of this tension is attributed, I believe, to the acting. Yes, acting, I feel, can increase the intensity and power of a movie. Whereas Alfred Hitchcock usually relied on great scripts, creepy music and alluringly dizzying camera work, in addition to stellar acting, Prisoners’ script is fair, the direction is fair but the acting is superb. (And by saying this, I am in no way comparing Prisoners to a Hitchcock movie. I HATE when people call ALL thrillers Hitchcockian when they are not even close to the type of film Hitchcock would put out. Prisoners is a great film, but it is not Hitchcockian.)
The two stand-out performances in this all-around excellent cast would have to be Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. Jackman, playing a role here unlike anything he’s played before, stars as a kidnapped girl’s father. Gyllenhaal plays the cop leading the investigation into finding the kidnapped girl. Jackman plays the role cool and icy. He’s a brooder. He’s keeping it all bottled up. Any person who can do what he does in the film cannot be anything but filled with rage. Yes, he shows some rage…he’s hostile, curt, angry, but we know…we just know…that the emotions he shows are just a small percentage of all that he’s really feeling. There are layers and layers beneath the surface that we never get to see. But, boy, do we find out that those layers are there. Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, makes his cop an enigma…hard to read, playing everything close to the vest. He’s twitchy, cool, secretive, lurking, and basically a complete mess. But, through all of his neuroses and flaws, he’s ever persistent, with the tenacity of a bulldog.
Scenery also plays a large role in making Prisoners what it is. The cold, wet, dreary setting of this working class, industrial town only enhances the desperation and the evilness lurking around every corner. But, mostly, the performances seal this film as a must-see thriller. Just be warned: you might bite your nails off!
Prisoners: 2013, rated R, 153 minutes, directed by Denis Villeneuve, starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello, Paul Dano, and Melissa Leo. The Niles Library owns this title on DVD and Blu-ray.
Image credit: http://teaser-trailer.com/movie/prisoners/