Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman star in this gripping thriller from Denis Villeneuve (Incendies), which follows an investigation into the shocking disappearance of two young girls — and the act of vigilantism that could either accelerate or derail the wheels of justice.
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.