Deliver us from evil – ★★★
The thought of someone dear to you going missing can cause you to give pause for thought but to imagine your own child disappearing is too much for most parents to even contemplate. This is the fate that befalls the Dover and Birch family and we see how their lives pause and become stuck in the gloom of a kidnapped child. Prisoners takes us on a tense emotional journey as we probe what fathers would do to reclaim their children and ultimately asks the question what would you do?
I say fathers as unfortunately the mothers don’t have much to do here and are simply left to weep and look off into the middle distance. Mrs. Dover (Maria Bello) takes to the bed with a cocktail of pills and Mrs. Birch (Viola Davis) fails to do the dishes from thanksgiving (doesn’t she know the cathartic benefits of doing the dishes?). Fear not for Wolverine is on the case, Hugh Jackman is Mr. Dover the all American hardworking male. He’s in construction but local stuff not a faceless corporation, he hunts, likes guns, takes care of his family, is a good Christian and is trying to prepare his children for the rigours of the real world. We are told in one instance how he sings “The Star Spangled Banner” in the shower, well gee gosh I’d bet he shits apple pie. Mr Birch (Terrence Howard) is a wuss by comparison, he wears jumpers and has glasses and plays the trumpet – no doubt a Democrat. To make matters worse he runs squealing to his wife when Jackman kidnaps a suspect, Paul Dano, in his daughter’s disappearance and tortures him. Mr Birch takes no pleasure in beating Dano so much his eye nearly pops out of his head, what a big jesse.
Detective Loki is brought in to investigate the disappearance of the children and is expertly played by Jake Gyllenhaal. He has a quiet confidence and uses methodical somewhat old-fashioned police skills. Some tattoos and a 50s haircut give him enough of an edge and he even has an angry chief who he constantly locks horns with. Cliches aside he gives real weight to the character making him much more believable and easier to warm too. Dano (at no point does anyone ask him to book somebody – about 3 people will get that joke) is fantastic as the creepy suspect with learning difficulties and Melissa Leo puts in a solid turn as his Aunt.
The director Denis Villeneuve is a master at ratcheting up the tension and has more than a few shots that impress, one of note being the introduction of Gyllenhaal. His exteriors are beautifully shot and rain hasn’t looked this good since Seven. It’s a pity the script doesn’t quite deliver, for the last forty or so minutes it becomes predictable and falls into the usual trappings for this sort of movie.
The film is by no means bad and will keep you gripped but on closer examination is stereotypical and doesn’t bring anything new to the genre. A large amount of thought has gone into the story, it all just shouldn’t be so obvious. Clocking in at two hours and 33 minutes you certainly begin to feel every minute, but thankfully Gyllenhaal isn’t too far away to rescue the scene.
Released across Ireland on September 27th 2013