Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Prisoners", is long but engrossing small town police drama

Prisoners” is a rich dramatic film, long (153 minutes), but shot, like many mystery dramas, in close-up Hitchcock style of 1.85:1 aspect, directed by Denis Villeneuve. It is a bit like an 80’s or early 90’s movie, with stylistic and plot similarities to “The Silence of the Lambs”.  It is written by Aaron Guzikowski and does not appear to be based on a novel.
Jake Gyllenhaal (the name is Dutch, as if the “double a” should be pronounced long), now 31, has taken to tougher roles.  I think he could lose the neck tattoo, which seems out of character – but maybe I’m too used to the young “nice guy” image of Donnie Darko.  Here he plays Detective Loki, still steady and determined and indeed a hero.   The film opens in a bizarre fashion, as the younger girls of carpentry contractor Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) seem drawn to a mysterious van in front of their house.  The girls soon disappear, and Loki finds the van driver, Alex (Paul Dano, usually known for likeable nerdy roles, but here not so), and brings him in.  Soon it’s apparent that Alex is retarded and that there is no evidence to hold him.  The police have to release him, and Dover goes vigilante, kidnapping Alex himself to “protect his family”.  That’s a partial, but not complete, explanation of the film title.
The plot gets complicated, all right, with twists, particularly involving Alex’s rather vengeful aunt Holly (Melissa Leo).  There are a couple other suspected sex offenders, including a priest, and a store clerk (David Dastmalchian).  Terrence Howard (“Hustle and Flow”) is effective as the natural father of one of the girls. 
The link for the film is here
The film is set in Pennsylvania, around Thanksgiving, with some heavy thunderstorms (possible in the late fall) followed by snow.  That looks good.  But the credits say the film was shot in Georgia.  Yes, it snows in Georgia.  But I like to see films shot where they are supposed to take place. 

The film was produced by Alcon, a major associate of Warner Brothers.  I’d love to see Warner Borthers bring back Warner Independent Pictures for “art house” material.  It doesn’t need to form a separate company to brand some of its films differently; companies have multiple distribution trademarks all the time (look at Sony, and look at the publishing industry).  The film aired at the Toronto Film Festival. “Prisoners” (rated R) is definitely for grownups who usually like festival and art house material.  I saw it in the daytime at Algelika Mosaic. 

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