Hugh Jackman hunts for his stolen daughter in ‘Prisoners’
Prisoners, directed by Denis Villeneuve, with a script by Aaron Guzikowski, is a more intense take on the subject of child abduction than we’re used to seeing on say, an episode of Criminal Minds.
Hugh Jackman stars as a father who refuses to sit back and do nothing when his young daughter and her best friend disappear on a Thanksgiving night when the two families involved are sharing a holiday meal together. Keller and Grace Dover’s (Jackman, Maria Bello) daughter is taken along with the daughter of their good friends Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard, Viola Davis).
The Birch’s’ terror is more introspective and Grace needs a sedative to battle her emotional upheaval, but Keller, who is a survivalist, uses rage as his tool to deal with this situation. He channels the mindset of 24’s Jack Bauer, doing anything and everything to finds his daughter which finds him butting heads with lead detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), who feels the interference, while understandable, is making his job tougher.
When Teller goes over the line and kidnaps the prime suspect, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), who has been questioned and released, it brings the audience into the debate of how far would they go to find a loved one.
The brutality and torture displayed by the “hero” of this piece makes for several uncomfortable moments. We only have Keller’s word that the suspect revealed himself in a whispered moment. When Keller can’t get him to admit his guilt in the face of horrifying torture, we begin to feel our emotions swinging in a different direction.
There is one moment when Keller’s obsession overcomes his common sense so outrageously that it pulled me out of the story, distressed that he would continue his lone wolf act when he had a concrete lead that Loki needed to know about. However, his desire to save his little girl himself is the one motivation that keeps him from letting common sense temper his rage.
Jackman is scary turning his grief into action, and there are terrific performances by Gyllenhaal, Dano and Melissa Leo as a woman with a secret that changes everything.
Jackman on ‘Prisoners’
At the Toronto Film Festival, star Hugh Jackman talked about the role. “I loved the script, but it could have become a more generic thriller. In Denis’ hands [director Denis Villeneuve] it became more ambitious, not just a gripping, end-of-your-seat thriller, but a film that makes you contemplates its theme for days after on many levels.”
Asked about a possible Oscar nomination for his intense performance, he notes, “As an actor, my [initial goal] was to be able to pay my rent by acting. Now [with the Oscar talk] I’m just thrilled that people are seeing the ambition of this movie, a movie that is timely and important. We make stories for audiences, so we can connect and have something to talk about and think about. Part of the research I did was finding out what really happens in [child abduction] cases. What happens in day one, day two. As I dove into these stories and watched videos of families, I felt responsible to treat this subject with respect. I didn’t want to glorify it in any way. This relates to fears that all of us [as parents] collectively have. That’s why the film is cathartic to watch. Hopefully, we did the subject justice.”
Six days down, one more to go and I can say I’ve had a great festival with several Oscar prospects, a wonderful selection of intriguing cinema from around the globe and just a few stiffs.
This is my 27th year attending the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which takes place Sept. 5-15. I have been doing my homework, looking over the 288 feature films from 70 countries to figure out which movies top my “must-see” list.
When you attend a premier film festival you dream about having the type of day I had today (Sept. 7) with two remarkable, best-of-the-year quality movies, plus three other good movies.
When the weather gets cooler the films do get more serious looking towards the award season, but there are certainly plenty of pure entertainment movies in the mix.
Ron Howard has spent decades developing and evolving his career in show business, which started when he was the adorable little tyke Opie on The Andy Griffith Show. From there he developed into a more grown up TV and film star after his success in America Graffiti (1973), followed by his years on Happy Days.
Gravity truly illustrates the tagline from Alien: “In space no one can hear you scream.” Directed and co-written by Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men), this film combines a breathtaking use of 3D photography, terrifying lost in space action sequences and an emotionally gripping performance by Sandra Bullock to create a singular, brilliant movie that will leave you breathless.
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