• Prisoners



    Released by: Warner Brothers
    Released on: December 17th, 2013.
    Director: Denis Villeneuve
    Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Paul Dano, Viola Davis
    Year: 2013
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Denis Villeneuve, 2013’s Prisoners tells the story of the Dovers – Keller (Hugh Jackman) and his wife Grace (Maria Bello) – who, when we meet them, are enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner with friends Franklin (Terrance Howard) and Nancy Birch (Viola Davis). Everything seems fine until they realize that the Dovers’ young daughter, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) and her friend Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons), the Birch’s’ kid, have disappeared. Emotions quickly run high and before you know it, parents are understandably panicking, their kids just gone without a trace.

    The cops are called and Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) handles the case. The only clue anyone can come up with is that there was a rundown RV parked nearby around the time all of this happened. Loki puts two and two together and soon fingers a mentally challenged man named Alex Jones (Paul Dano) as the culprit but due to lack of evidence, they have to set him free. Out of custody, he takes up with his mother, Holly Jones (Melissa Leo), while the cops soon dismiss his involvement figuring he just wasn’t mentally capable of pulling something like this off in the middle of the day. Keller isn’t letting this go that easy though, even while the cops pursue other leads. He abducts Alex, brings him to an abandoned building, and begins to torture him in hopes that, if he has the right man, he’ll get the information he needs and find his daughter.

    A smartly written thriller, Prisoners really benefits from some top notch performances. Maria Bello and Viola Davis are, as you’d expect, completely heartbroken by all of this and almost completely engulfed in equal parts panic and distress. Most of us would be as well in a situation like this. They handle these parts well and are appropriately cast. Also impressive is Paul Dano and, without spoiling things, let it suffice to say that he is the right choice for this role. His character is an interesting one, not the stereotype you might expect given that he is playing someone with some issues. Pay attention to the character traits he focuses on, he’s great to watch.

    Gyllenhaal is also solid, though some may not necessarily agree that he looks the part he delivers enough depth and emotion to make the role his own, but the real scene stealer here is Hugh Jackman. At times a man completely undone and at other times a coiled, surly menace he is often as frightening as he is sympathetic. The script gives him enough weight to let Jackman craft a fascinatingly conflicted character here and how much you’re able to relate to him will no doubt connect directly to your own personal idea of masculine ideals and responsibilities and possible parental instincts. This allows for a film that will ultimately mean different things to different people and those are always more fun to think about than straight forward tales of good against evil.

    The plot synopsis may make this sound akin to something like Taken, and that’s not the case. This is a dark, twisted and psychologically challenging film made all the more impressive by the work that the cast deliver. Add to that some appropriately dark but never less than wholly impressive camera work, some slick location shooting and a solid score and Prisoners turns out to be a surprisingly well made and intelligent thriller worth seeking out.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The transfer on this AVC encoded 1080p high definition release frames the movie at 1.78.1 widescreen and it looks excellent. As you’d expect, there’s no dirt or debris here and detail is generally outstanding though there are a few scenes that look to have been shot with an intentional softness for artistic effect. Colors are nicely reproduced and look quite natural most of the time even if they are a little on the bleak side in terms of style. Black levels are strong throughout and contrast is solid. No complaints here, this is an excellent looking transfer from Warner Brothers.

    The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is also very strong. There are moments of intense surround activity but more often than that the film relies on a more subdued mix. There are stretches here without any action that are instead more dialogue and mood based – pay attention during this more restrained moments and you’ll pick up on some subtle but effective use of the surrounds which all goes towards building some welcome ambience and atmosphere in these scenes. Alternate language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks are provided in French and Spanish with subtitles offered in English SDH, French and Spanish.

    Extras are slim, limited to a three minute promotional/EPK style piece called Every Moment Matters and a nine minute segment called Powerful Performances made up primarily of cast and crew interviews discussing the work seen on screen. A DVD version including extras identical to those found on the Blu-ray disc is also included, as is a digital copy. Both discs include menus and chapter stops and the Blu-ray case fits inside a slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    Prisoners is more interesting and challenging than you’d expect mainstream fair with marquee names backed by a major studio to be. It’s smart, it’s tense and it’s psychologically intriguing while the performances deliver and the direction guides the pace nicely. Warner’s Blu-ray is surprisingly slim in the extra features department but it looks and sounds excellent – a solid package overall.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!