MFR Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
As a crime thriller, Prisoners stares into the abyss. If it were a person it would look down from the tallest cliff, cast under the greyest of grey skies, brooding and in pain. It’s a bleak and rather convoluted tale of child abduction with a measured pace and moral complexity, delivered splendidly through the performances of Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, the former a deeply religious father with a survivalist streak whose daughter goes missing, the latter a focused detective with an off kilter, nervous squint.
Following the girl’s disappearance, an RV initially seen parked near the family house becomes the first lead in the investigation, discovered to have been owned by a man who possesses an IQ of a 10 year old. Despite the father’s personal suspicions and surveillance the man is allowed to go free by the police due to a lack of evidence. It’s full of twists, many of which work effectively alongside the carefully plotted narrative and emotional anguish. The despondent tone is captured beautifully by Roger Deakins’s cinematography which manages to look beautiful whilst wrapping the film under a dark cloud. It’s the visual appeal of the film which makes it bearable amidst the emotional torture suffered by the father and the physical torture it leads him to perform. Questions of morality lie at Prisoner‘s core and like everything in the film, there are no easy answers.
In many ways it owes a great debt to Zodiac, bringing together a gritty police procedural with a contemplative and weighty mystery. Prisoners lacks the predictability and weariness which plagues so many crime thrillers, replacing it with questions of moral corruption amidst some exhausting tension.
Review by David Rank
Prisoners is out now in the UK. Running time 153 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).