Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve, 2013)

What's it about? When two girls disappear during Thanksgiving holiday, suspicion immediately falls upon local weirdo Alex (Paul Dano). The cops and Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) aren't so sure, but the father of one of the girls (Hugh Jackman) is convinced Alex knows what happened them and takes the law in his own hands in an attempt to uncover the truth.

Is it any good? A pretty solid effort, although not without some flaws. Plot-wise, we have all the usual ingredients for a crime thriller, with twists, red herrings, a few contrivances and a couple of plot-holes all present and correct, as it builds to a guessable and faintly ridiculous finale. However, that said, it's gripping enough for the most part and makes a fair effort to tie up all the elements by the end. Plus it does have a few tricks up its sleeve to set it apart from the crowd. Of particular note is the gloomy cinematography from Roger Deakins, which infuses the film with a real sense of foreboding and gravitas. It may be set in America, but the mood is more reminiscent of the Scandanavian crime fiction milieu which is so popular at the minute (the name Loki is surely a nod to this). Adding to the atmosphere are solid, grim performances from the leads, with Gyllenhaal particularly impressive as the detective struggling with the case, although Jackman gets the showier role. Finally, it provides some food for thought by probing the morally grey areas of the story, with obvious War on Terror parallels thrown into the mix. So it's trying to be a bit more than a standard thriller and whilst it doesn't provide anything that you won't have seen before in the likes of Mystic River or Gone Baby Gone (if you liked those, you'll like this), it's a solid English language debut from Villeneuve. Despite its flaws, I liked it.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Solid reviews, although they divide into those who like it despite the third act, and those who think it collapses as the plot twists pile up. Hopefully, it will encourage people to check out Villeneuve's previous film, the excellent French-Canadian thriller Incendies, which I've reviewed here.

Anything else I should know? This is my first review in a while, since I've had to actually concentrate on real work for a bit, which tends to cut into my movie viewing time. Coincidentally, work at the minute is just like being a prisoner, with abuse, torture and endless questioning from people who won't accept that I just don't know anything! I'm still here chained to my desk at this late hour, slaving away. They better give me my clothes back soon, that's all I can say.

What does the Fonz think? It's a twister, Auntie....Em!

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