Prisoners reviews

Big Magilla
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Re: Prisoners reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Dec 18, 2013 9:12 pm

Finally saw it. It's overlong and tedious and much of it is little more than torture porn but I didn't connect the dots until well into the film.

Good performance from Gyllenhaal similar to his work in Zodiac but Jackman is awful. He, Bello, Howard, Davis, Dano and especially Leo are playing characters that one hopes only exist in fiction. The French Canadian director is the same guy who gave us the overwrought Incendies.
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Re: Prisoners reviews

Postby Sabin » Tue Dec 03, 2013 3:34 pm

Paul Dano exists to get beaten to shit in movies. There is only one memorable moment in Prisoners, a moment that screams out for an Oscar nomination the film 100% will not get. Best Makeup. After beating Paul Dano to shit for days, a wife (I'm going on one viewing from two months ago, so I forget which one, probably Viola Davis), is brought to Dano's "cell" and gets a look at him. She gasps in horror and we see why. His head is completely distorted from beatings, swollen, purple, awful. It's the one moment that successfully captures the Fincher nightmare everyone clearly wants this film to be.

It's engaging in bits and pieces but it's just too darn dumb. For God's sake, Jake Gyllenhaal's character is named Det. Loki. Why, exactly, is he meant to evoke the spirit of the mischief God? Red herring or does it just sound cool? It should be said that it's possible this is his best performance to date, an expert mix of world-weary, arrogance, and dickishness. It's also probably Hugh Jackman's worst.
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Re: Prisoners reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sat Nov 09, 2013 2:03 pm

Prisoners is the, what?, hundredth movie about a normal American citizen who takes justice in his own hands after he thinks that the "official" justice has failed. In this case, he kidnaps a young, problematic man whom he feels is responsible of the kidnapping of his little girl and a friend , and tortures him for days. It happens, in American movies. But my question is - does it REALLY happen in America? And SO often? And we are talking about a country with, I guess, an efficient police system - then what should happen in, say, Lebanon? Or even in Sicily? It probably doesnt actually happen in America either - but the fact that American cinema is so obsessed with this kind of fascistic behavior is, I think, deeply disturbing. It shows a side of America which is very barbaric, and that Americans should reject - firmly, But they don't of course. And in this movie the vigilante aspect is even more absurd. At one point two other characters (one being a woman) get to know what the man is doing. Do you think that at least one of them will go to the police? Well, if you do you'd be wrong - they keep the secret, despite the fact that they have seen him almost killing the boy. And at the end the wife of the man, after asking if he could be sent to prison for this (!), solemnly proclaims: "He did the right thing". The fact that no American reviewers has even vaguely criticized this side of the movie should make us think. It certainly makes ME think. The moment one accepts all this in a movie, he or she is getting ready to accept it in real life.

Reviewers were busy praising the "moral ambiguity" of the "profound, multi-layered" characters. There's no moral ambiguity in this movie - the characters don't have doubts of any kind, except maybe the one played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who at least tries to create a believable human being out of what, on paper, was probably as one-dimensional as the others. Hugh Jackman is obviously unconvinced by what he has to do, and gives a tiresomely exaggerated perfornance. The others are wasted (but Viola Davis gets to cry again).

I shouldnt be too cynical. The movie is well-shot - complete with that kind of brown-ish photography that these days seems to be a guarantee of seriousness. But once one goes beyond its formal qualities, it's dreadful, really. It's true that "all the pieces fit in the end" - there are no red herrings, and so no surprises: when the unidentified corpse of an adult man is found, you realize that it must play an important role in the narrative, and I immediately knew who he was. But even the "thriller" part is far from perfect - there is at least one minor, though puzzling, hole in the narrative.

And yes, it's true - nobody dies - except the bad guys. Prisoners says alot about today's America. But not intentionally.

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Re: Prisoners reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Oct 20, 2013 8:11 pm

I don't think the movie's getting anywhere near the Oscars, except maybe Deakins (deserved, but by branch-rote). But I liked it. It's totally in my wheelhouse: basically a crime procedural, a really convoluted one, but one where all the pieces fit in the end -- and where themes are explored in interesting if not revelatory ways. Perhaps Uri was expecting a serious study of child abduction or vigilantism; I just saw them as the background for a fairly thoughtful thriller. I'd also disagree that this in any way represents screenwriting 101 -- studio conventional wisdom would have gone for a lot more fast cutting, not the contemplative, take-your-time approach Villeneuve chooses. And I don't see the film as endorsing Jackman's actions, given that no useful information truly comes out of what he does, unless totally indirectly.

I didn't care for Jackman's performance -- it felt like he was cast to bring his generally benign persona to soften the character, but he ended up barking too many of his lines. Terence Howard also seemed woefully weak. Jake Gyllenhaal was the standout, along with a surprisingly restrained Melissa Leo, and Viola Davis, utterly effective in her small role.

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Re: Prisoners reviews

Postby flipp525 » Sat Oct 19, 2013 1:22 pm

12 Years a Slave is another overacting citation for Dano. Someone really needs to bring him down a notch.
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Re: Prisoners reviews

Postby Reza » Tue Oct 08, 2013 2:50 pm

Big Magilla wrote:A sleeper indeed, though awards traction may depend on the film having legs. Eastwood's editors are a major plus. Nominations for Jackman and Gyllenhaal would depend on the strengths of actors in Oscar bait films yet to be seen. Dano could slip into Supporting Actor, but the weak Supporting Actress field could bring recognition for never nominated Bello as well as Davis and Leo bumping Streep back to lead where she belongs.


The only ones who may get onto the Oscar list are Hugh Jackman, Roger Deakins and maybe the editors. Nobody else in the cast and certainly not Dano or Bello.

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Re: Prisoners reviews

Postby Reza » Tue Oct 08, 2013 2:45 pm

Uri wrote:But still, may I say this: if you want me to take a film like this seriously, I want people to die in it, please. Especially children. Thank you.


On the contrary it was because nobody died that made the film so refreshing. I fully expected a bleak ending which is considered to be something so innovative and which is supposed to make us think. Fuck thinking. The film is very cut and dry, old fashioned in championing hope and a breath of fresh air in the confines of a very familiar plot.

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Re: Prisoners reviews

Postby Uri » Wed Sep 25, 2013 10:31 am

This is exactly the kind of film which makes me give up on American cinema. It is not the worst film I ever saw, but the more I think about it, the more I see it as another frustrating example of the way most American mainstream films now are avoiding any departure from tired, familiar patterns of “well structured” methods of narrative and characters construction. I guess it’s just another case of what you Americans like to call “screen writing 101”. That this kind of cliché ridden, lazy story telling can be taken seriously is really depressing. Yeh, yeh, it’s about how “the wages of sin, guilt, vengeance and redemption weigh heavy on the characters”, (still - Spoiler!!! - one just know they’ll all survive). All these “important” issues are nominally addressed, but in a mechanical, uninvolving way. The longer I set there (and I did it for a very long time) the less involved and certainly less moved I became. And why should this kind of film be so long? Ah, yes, otherwise we wouldn't be aware that this is “a difficult subject” which “is bolstered by outstanding performances and masterly filmmaking”. Never mind, regardless of the fact that I personally think that comparing this one to the likes of “Seven,” “Mystic River” and “In the Bedroom” is really dumb - now, that it’s not only ”a sleeper, with very strong reviews” but also quite a champion at the box office, I see no reason for it not to thrive at the Oscars. And this film embraces the fascist agenda of its leading character, so its heart is in the right place too.

But still, may I say this: if you want me to take a film like this seriously, I want people to die in it, please. Especially children. Thank you.

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Re: Prisoners reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Sat Aug 31, 2013 3:22 am

A sleeper indeed, though awards traction may depend on the film having legs. Eastwood's editors are a major plus. Nominations for Jackman and Gyllenhaal would depend on the strengths of actors in Oscar bait films yet to be seen. Dano could slip into Supporting Actor, but the weak Supporting Actress field could bring recognition for never nominated Bello as well as Davis and Leo bumping Streep back to lead where she belongs.
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Prisoners reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Aug 31, 2013 12:16 am

And, a sleeper, with very strong reviews.

Variety
Scott Foundas
Chief Film Critic@foundasonfilm

The wages of sin, guilt, vengeance and redemption weigh heavy on the characters of “Prisoners,” a spellbinding, sensationally effective thriller with a complex moral center that marks a grand-slam English-lingo debut for the gifted Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve. Powered by an unusually rich, twisty script by Aaron Guzikowski (“Contraband”) and career-best performances from Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, this tale of two Pennsylvania families searching for their kidnapped daughters sustains an almost unbearable tension for two-and-a-half hours of screen time, satisfying as both a high-end genre exercise and a searing adult drama of the sort Hollywood almost never makes anymore. Fully deserving of mention in the same breath as “Seven,” “Mystic River” and “In the Bedroom,” this Sept. 20 Warners release may prove too intense for some viewers, but should ride strong reviews and word of mouth to above-average R-rated returns. It immediately enters the ring as an awards-season heavyweight.

Though at first glance the pic would appear to have little in common with his previous work, Villeneuve has long shown an interest in the psychological and emotional consequences of violence, as evidenced by 2009’s serenely chilling, black-and-white “Polytechnique” (about a real-life Canadian mass shooting) and especially 2010’s Oscar-nominated “Incendies,” which “Prisoners” echoes in its fragmented central mystery and its theme of the good and ill transmitted from parents to children. But in every respect, the new film finds Villeneuve working on his biggest and most ambitious canvas to date and, perhaps most impressive, flawlessly catching the moods and mores of small-town, God-fearing America.

The movie announces its measured, quietly confident tone right from the opening scene of a father-son deer-hunting trip, the first of many images of predators pursuing their prey. “Be ready,” says the father, Pennsylvania carpenter Keller Dover (Jackman), to the teenage boy (Dylan Minnette), a crucifix dangling from the rear-view mirror, a late autumn chill hanging in the air. Back at home, where Keller’s wife, Grace (Maria Bello), and 6-year-old daughter, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich), safely await his return, the basement is stocked with enough emergency provisions for a nuclear holocaust. (Among other thing, “Prisoners” is very much a movie about what people have in their basements.) All the canned goods in the world, however, cannot shield the Dovers from what is about to happen next.

Theirs is the kind of quaint suburban street where people walk over to the neighbor’s house for Thanksgiving dinner and feel relatively insulated from the world’s violent ills. Yet it is during just such a Thanksgiving that Anna wanders off unsupervised along with 7-year-old Joy, the daughter of family friends Nancy and Franklin Birch (Viola Davis and Terrence Howard, respectively). By dessert, both have vanished without a trace. The only clue: Earlier in the day, the girls were seen playing around a camper van parked in front of a vacant house down the road, the faint sound of a radio suggesting that someone was inside, patiently watching.

Det. Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is spending his Thanksgiving alone, flirting with the waitress in a lonely Chinese diner, when he first responds to the case. In the best film-noir manner, rain is sheeting down, and the camera of the great d.p. Roger Deakins (who has shot the film in wintry blues and blacks with an expressionist edge) pushes in slowly from behind. Loki, we are told, has never failed to solve a case, though this is at odds with the man’s solemn demeanor, his haunted gaze and the elaborate tattoos jutting out from his collar suggesting reserves of private rage. Compare this to the eager-beaver murder sleuth Gyllenhaal played in David Fincher’s “Zodiac” and the full breadth of his impressive range immediately comes into focus.

The camper van is soon located along with its owner, a gangly, inarticulate man-child named Alex (played to creepy perfection by Paul Dano), who lives with his aunt (Melissa Leo) in the kind of run-down, cluttered tract house where serial killers and other movie deviants tend to reside. But awareness of such familiar tropes — and awareness of our awareness of them — is one of “Prisoners’” canny strengths. So it turns out that Alex is not the kidnapper — or at least, that there’s no physical evidence tying him to the scene — and the police are forced to let him go. Which is when Keller, who’s as sure as we are that Alex is guilty, takes matters into his own hands, abducting the suspect and chaining him up in an abandoned apartment building that belonged to his father. The movie’s tally of kidnappers now stands at two.

And the puzzle of “Prisoners” has only just begun to assemble. Following a lead to the home of an elderly priest (Len Cariou), Loki discovers a rotting corpse in a hidden cellar. Then, at exactly the one-hour mark, another shifty young man appears on the scene, triggering a whole new set of suspicions. All the while, Alex sits in hock, violently tortured and interrogated by Keller (who tells his wife he’s off helping the police) in an effort to discern the girls’ whereabouts.

With each successive revelation, Guzikowski’s brilliant script satisfies the necessary machinations while always flowing effortlessly from his vivid, multi-dimensional characters. That delicate balance extends to Villeneuve’s direction, which maintains a vise-like grip on the viewer without ever resorting to cheap shock effects or compromising the integrity of the human drama. Yet this is also a film that breathes, that knows it has the audience in its palm and can take time out for the kind of incidental, character-deepening scenes that usually end up on the cutting-room floor. In less assured hands, a movie called “Prisoners” with a plot like this would be an invitation to disaster, heavy on self-conscious allegory, symbolism and moral debate. (Everyone, don’t you see, is a prisoner of something — of time, of grief, of his own psyche.) In Villeneuve’s, nothing is belabored, the thorny questions of right and wrong bubbling under the surface without ever being declaimed.

Jackman has simply never been better than as this true believer forced to question his beliefs. Effortlessly, the Australian actor projects a solid, rugged Americanness, the acme of a man whose home is his castle and who sees himself as his family’s protector. It is a performance void of vanity or the desire to be loved by the audience, and moment to moment it is exhilarating to watch. In just a handful of scenes each, Bello and Davis suggest the full, inexpressible weight of motherly grief. Leo, given a role rife with opportunities to ham it up, instead plays things with the sober conviction of a disappointed life, another standout in a movie with nary a squandered performance in the mix.

In addition to Deakins’ stellar work, longtime Clint Eastwood editors Joel Cox and Gary Roach have done a formidable job of assembling the pic’s densely constructed narrative web. Score by Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson (also making his big-studio debut) strikes just the right haunting, mournful notes.



Hollywood Reporter
Prisoners: Telluride Review

8:00 PM PDT 8/30/2013 by Stephen Farber

The Bottom Line
A difficult subject is bolstered by outstanding performances and masterly filmmaking.

Cast:

Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Dylan Minnette.

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Can a superbly crafted film overcome audience resistance to an extremely painful subject? That is a question that Warner Bros. will be pondering nervously as Prisoners moves from its festival screenings during the next week to a wide national release later in September. The movie deals with the abduction of two young children and the havoc that this trauma wreaks on the families and police officers investigating the crime. While the subject has been in the news recently, giving the film undeniable timeliness, there’s a difference between following a disturbing news story and paying to see a similar drama unfold at the multiplex. In addition, the film doesn’t flinch from graphic moments of violence and terror.

Canadian director Denis Villeneuve makes his Hollywood debut with this film. His previous film, the Oscar-nominated foreign language film Incendies, did attract an audience, even though it dealt with rape, incest, and religious hatred. Still, that was essentially an arthouse success that may not be a relevant point of comparison for a wider, major studio release. Leaving aside the movie’s uncertain commercial prospects, this much is certain: Viewers who see the movie will find it absolutely riveting, and this is a tribute to the filmmaker’s skill and to the excellent cast that brings the story to life.

The film begins indirectly but ominously as a man encourage his teenage son to hunt and kill a deer. The father, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is a carpenter who seems to be one of those survivalists who clings to guns and religion, but our view of him as a rightwing nutcase is modified when we see that he and his family choose to spend Thanksgiving with a black family in the neighborhood. (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis play the neighbors.) The friendship of these two families is surprising but handled naturally and believably. As everyone relaxes during the course of a long afternoon, their two young daughters go outside and never return. A suspicious looking van was spotted outside, and the parents begin to fear the worst as they contact the police, and a search for the two girls builds in intensity. The police arrest the driver of the van, Alex (Paul Dano), who turns out to be mentally impaired, but they have insufficient evidence to keep him in custody. Frustrated, Keller decides to abduct Alex and interrogate him brutally, convinced that this is the only way to save the two girls while the clock is ticking.

The film makes pertinent, provocative comments on vigilante justice, and the issues are never simplified in Aaron Guzikowski’s screenplay. Keller is fanatical, but we sense that he may have legitimate reasons for his suspicion of Alex. When he gets the neighboring couple involved in his torture plan, they are initially appalled but hesitant to stop him because they too sense that this may be the only way to save the children.

As Keller’s interrogation continues in scenes that are gruesome but never exploitative, Villeneuve frequently cuts away to follow the lead police detective (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is pursuing his own investigation that includes questioning Alex’s lonely aunt (Melissa Leo), whose troubled family history may have led her nephew astray. As the film weaves all the plot and character strands together, the vise tightens. There are some truly scary scenes as new suspects appear and the film twists its way to a dark, mordant conclusion. It’s worth remembering that Incendies, despite its Oscar nomination and excellent reviews, was essentially a high-class melodrama, and that’s the way that Prisoners should be viewed as well. And thanks to the efforts of an expert filmmaking team, it’s a smashingly effective melodrama.

Villeneuve enlisted brilliant cinematographer Roger Deakins, who captures the rainy, chilly atmosphere of this Pennsylvania community with visual eloquence. (Pennsylvania was convincingly recreated outside Atlanta.) The editing by Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach, two editors of many of Clint Eastwood’s recent movies, is also first-rate. Although the film runs two and a half hours, there doesn’t seem to be a wasted frame.

The performances also enrich the film. Jackman gives what may be the most intense and satisfying performance of his career. As the film progresses, we learn that Keller is a far more complex and tormented character than his first appearance as macho hunter suggested. A recovering alcoholic and less than perfect husband, he seems to be acting out these vigilante fantasies as a way of compensating for a deep-seated sense of inadequacy. Jackman illuminates the character’s conflicted nature without ever begging for sympathy. Gyllenhaal is also playing a troubled character, a suspicious loner who nonetheless has a strong desire to help people in need, and he wins our sympathy for this dogged detective without in any way idealizing the character. Howard and Davis are excellent, as always, though one flaw of the film is that they have too little to do in the second half of the story.

As the plot twists multiply and tension mounts, the film reaches a climax that is satisfying without being predictable. Special praise should go to the sound engineer for a shrewd touch in the very last scene that brings the story to an absolutely perfect conclusion. Prisoners can at times be a hard film to watch, but thanks to all the talent involved, it’s even harder to shake off.


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