Sunday, November 10, 2013

Prisoners (2013)

It seems that the season of releases targeting next year's awards has started. Maybe it would be better not to provoke though "the cinema karma", or whatever sets the chance to get a good movie more often then once every two months. So, getting to the point, "Prisoners" enters the same set of recommendations I can make for what this fall has brought, after "Blue Jasmine" and "Rush". Let's see why ...

I can place the movie in the "serial killer thrillers" niche, with the difference that instead of killer we have a kidnapper .. or at least this is what the trailer gives to you. Trailer which probably contributed a lot (by contrast) to my final opinion. It's made in such a way that seems to serve you the full story and it doesn't promise much else in the movie = my expectations were so reduced that I almost skipped it. Well .. eventually I've been convinced to watch the movie by the surprisingly high ratings I noticed in some reviews. So, what's "advertised" shows us two families living in some US town suburbs who end celebrating Thanksgiving with less members than when started. More precisely the youngest daughters disappear. The police captures quite fast a presumed suspect seen wandering around in a RV, but no trace of the two girls is found in the vehicle, and as an extra bonus for the investigation the guy is a young retarded individual who is not able to communicate much. So, he eventually is released, fact that leads one of the parents to take charge and make his own law. And like this we're getting into another kidnapping, the presumed suspect being sequestrated for "proper interrogation". The other father is also brought into this, although more reluctant but in the end cooperating under the pressure of time passing + no info about the kids. That's pretty much what you get in the trailer. The movie is long though - two hours and a half - so it must be something extra there :) ...

I have to admit that the first half has some lengths, and the development is overall pretty slow. However, when you reach the conclusion that: ok, I'm looking at a decent movie but the story was clear before the first frame, a scene or even a single line hits you. In such way that you don't know what to think anymore. Probably not strong enough to change what you expect, especially since the movie tends to get back to the same story line. But is still enough to realize afterwards that "everything makes sense" and probably you're far from being a contemporary Sherlock Holmes since you ignored a ton of details given to you, choosing instead the ending before it happened. I'll limit myself to a "light spoiler": in the first phase of the investigation, a series of guys with some background in children molesting are questioned. In the case of an alcoholic priest the things get a bit more far, his basement holding the remains of a corpse rotten there years ago. The quick way of how all this is delivered to the viewer, makes you take it as a secondary thread which seems to be there just to show how creepy can be the neighbor across the road. Well ... (trust me, is just a light spoiler, I didn't even get into the heavy stuff).

What I want to say, and I don't know if I was clear enough, is that the movie plays with your mind. And it does it in a way that, at least in my case, made me to consider the script as one of the most clever written I've seen for a thriller since long ago. If you just analyze a bit the title - "Prisoners" - after the movie, it gets a newer sense than in the beginning, or in the middle. I don't know what other movie I could reference as comparable. I could say "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" but there is more the "exotic" character as effect than the story twists. "Seven" would be another example, but I barely remember it. Well ..

Since I referenced the above titles, I should say something about the rough scenes in the movie. You have to expect some, visually, but mostly psychologically. Honestly, the bloodiest scene seemed more tolerable than others where you don't have any red in your sight. It's not violence for free though. It has its place in the context (I don't want to imagine an Asian version of the story, especially considering that not so long ago I wrote about "I Saw the Devil"). It is however well fragmented to make it bearable. Even more, sometimes it actually gets slightly hilarious = at the end you can conclude that if you spend some time in the American suburbs you'll become "basementophobic", considering how often you get to see at least weird if not grim purposes of usage for any subterranean place in this movie.

I'm slowly getting as long as the movie is. Let me try wrapping this up. I heard appreciations for the cinematography. It's ok, but for me Roger Deakins did a better job in other productions (e.g., "True Grit" or "The Reader"). I guess the main merit for the movie feeling belongs to the director Denis Villeneuve, but again the original script (= it's not an adapted material) is the strong point here - where we have a name that doesn't say much, Aaron Guzikowski (I see he's credited for "Contraband" which now I'm convinced to watch). I should also say that's the best role probably in which I've ever seen Jake Gyllenhaal, as the detective handling the case, although pretty much all reviews praise Hugh Jackman, already nominating him for next years Oscars. Where I guess we'll hear again about "Prisoners" also in other categories ...

Rating: 4 out of 5 (because technically it could've been better and is slightly too "grim" for my taste)

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