Denis Villeneuve’s 2013 picture “Prisoners,” starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, is a fantastic film.
This film is a prime example of a great thriller. The key to a great thriller is a strong premise that is amplified as the plot advances. There needs to be a rise in tension and stakes, which the main characters must then respond to, showing their traits and flaws. To conclude effectively, the film must end with the most intense moments and the highest stakes.
Not only does “Prisoners” embody all key traits of a great thriller, it exceeds them in many ways.
The film surrounds a kidnapping and the ensuing search for two missing children in a suburban town. As the plot progresses, there are several twists and turns that viewers will never see coming.
The runtime may seem like an issue, being around two and a half hours, but this film is perfectly paced. With stakes and tensions ramping up seemingly every 10 minutes, the picture earns its runtime. That is also supported by the brilliant plot structure of the film. Every element that is set up in the first act pays off in the second or third, delivering a cohesive story.
However the plot and story is not the only strong suit of this picture. This is an incredibly well-acted film as well. Jackman and Gyllenhaal lead the way, delivering a pair of brilliant performances. It is a travesty that Jackman’s performance did not earn himself an Academy Award nomination, as he perfectly embodies his character in this film. The supporting cast is also fantastic, with the likes of Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano and David Dastmalchian.
That being said, what elevates this picture to greatness is Denis Villeneuve’s direction and Roger Deakins’ cinematography. The visuals of this movie simply amplify the tense, emotional atmosphere creating a unique viewership experience. Combine this with memorable set pieces, this picture delivers on almost every level visually.
My only gripe with this film would be its religious subthemes. The film is already thematically strong with its story structure and character arcs, which makes the inclusion of various religious undertones feel tacked on at times. This doesn’t hurt the picture in a major way but it still doesn’t feel like a necessary inclusion.
In conclusion, this is an absolutely incredible picture that delivers on every level. If you are looking for the epitome of a thriller, this film is a great example. Its execution is close to flawless, with great performances, incredible visuals and most importantly, a fantastic story. For all those reasons, “Prisoners” is a fantastic film.
Where to find “Prisoners”: Streaming on Hulu