Well, the Summer's officially over and it's looking like the actually good but slightly more depressing movies are starting to come out.
And you know what?
I'm totally ok with that.
In the vein of Zodiac or even Se7en, Prisoners is a new thriller/whodunit with an all-star cast in which two little girls go missing, a bunch of people go looking for them and dodgy suspects are hinted at throughout. I know it sounds pretty standard but Prisoners is by no means a standard, been-there-done-that flick. Surprisingly, the film is one bleak, intense and brutal experience with fascinating, complex characters and so many twists and turns that its maze motif is entirely justified. Hugh Jackman plays the father of one of the missing daughters, a guy we're told likes to be ready for the worse, well: he sure wasn't ready for that one. Which is why the way the film develops that character is so interesting: making him do questionable things yet keeping his humanity intact just enough that he doesn't become a full-on, heartless villain. Gyllenhaal is the cop trying to make sense of this whole case but instead of being the typical superhero cop we expect him to be, he too is flawed and maybe blinded somewhat by the events unfolding around him. The ever brilliant Paul Dano is once again on top form as the guilty-looking yet vulnerable object of Jackman's obsessions.
Much like in Zodiac, the film manipulates us and sends each one of its characters deeper into physical, psychological and emotional webs that aren't all that easy to get out of. By the end, though, it all comes together and makes sense, despite perhaps a couple of loose ends. This really is the type of film that demands repeat viewings as it probably contains many details you might not necessarily catch the first time around. The violence in the film is harsh and will no doubt make you squirm in your seat and the occasional red herrings might temporarily frustrate you but that's what the film is going for and it does it well. It's actually a bit of a shame that the film ends pretty much like a basic whodunit, with the bad guy monologuing about why they did what they did because, up until that point, Prisoners really felt like it was building up to something unique. Something either really dark and really sad (see The Orphanage) or something completely out of left-field. Not that the reveal is predictable but it's a little bit more conventional than was expected. Same goes for the opening which sees a bunch of people being really happy before the film suddenly makes them really depressed, an obvious contrast we could have done without. Prisoners may be somewhat derivative in parts but it still feels fresh and authentic: with the help of a captivating script and terrific performances all around, the film remains pretty hypnotic from start to finish.
Prisoners is the kind of thriller you don't expect much from but which turns out to be deeper, more thought-provoking and much more entertaining than you could have ever hoped for. It may not be quite as polished as Zodiac and it is a little long but it's well worth seeing nonetheless.
Definitely one of this year's best surprises.