With an Oscar nomination for Incendies and an unbroken list of strong independent features behind him, Montreal's Denis Villeneuve (whose Enemy is also at the Festival) was clearly ready for bigger things. And yet it's still a surprise to experience Prisoners. Taut, controlled, precise and high-impact, this is Hollywood filmmaking at its best. Working with a dream cast led by Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, Villeneuve proves himself the equal of today's best studio directors.
On an overcast Thanksgiving in suburban Pennsylvania, two neighbouring families gather for dinner. Food, drink, games, and stories are shared. But as the party begins to wind down, the youngest daughters from each household are nowhere to be found. Panic sets in as the parents remember the mysterious Winnebago that was parked on their street earlier in the day. What has happened to the children?
Gyllenhaal plays the lead detective investigating the disappearance. Although his work soon reveals a suspect in the form of a young misfit (Paul Dano), a solid case proves elusive. He begins the hard slog to collect evidence, but his calm determination soon proves too much for the girls' parents, who endure each passing hour with increasing panic. It's not long before one girl's father (Hugh Jackman) decides to take both the hunt and the punishment into his own hands.
With a plot that advances through surprise and logic, Prisoners consistently engages both the mind and gut. In addition to Jackman and Gyllenhaal, supporting actors Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello and Melissa Leo turn in beautifully calibrated performances. And the combination of Villeneuve's feel for dramatic rhythm and Roger A. Deakins's coolly perfect images produces a potent result. Prisoners has its disturbing moments, but this is a smart, polished thriller that knows just how and when to ratchet up the tension.
"It absorbs and controls your attention with such assurance that you hold your breath for fear of distracting the people on screen, exhaling in relief or amazement at each new revelation." - A.O. Scott, New York Times
"One of the most intense thrillers in recent years. Best performance of Hugh Jackman's career." - Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano
Runtime: 153 minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros.
ON NR /
BC NR /
AB NR /
SK NR /
MB NR /
QC NR /
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