SYNOPSIS: The story is fairly simple. Best friends Keller and Grace Dover (Jackman and Maria Bello), Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) and their kids spend Thanksgiving together. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘Prisoners’
“Prisoners,” a new child abduction drama starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Terrence Howard, isn’t as cut and dried. It asks the question, How far would you go to get the information you need to protect your family?
The story is fairly simple. Best friends Keller and Grace Dover (Jackman and Maria Bello), Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) and their kids spend Thanksgiving together. After dinner the youngest members of the family, Anna Dover (Erin Gerasimovich) and Joy Birch (Kyla Drew Simmons) go for a walk and never return.
Panicked, the family search the neighborhood and when they come up empty the police are called with a description of the girls and a suspicious RV that was seen in the area. The camper is racked down and Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) arrests a suspect, Alex Jones (Paul Dano).
Keller is convinced the police have the right man and when Alex is released, he takes matters into his own hands. Kidnapping Jones, he tries to beat a confession out of him. When that doesn’t work his methods escalate.
There is a serial killer subplot woven into “Prisoners,” but it detracts from the core element that makes the movie interesting. Jackman brings the full weight of Keller’s anguish to the screen, and his performance carries with it the moral dilemma of the movie. The serial killer element feels tacked on, as though screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski felt he needed to up the tension with a “Criminal Minds” style plot twist.
It’s too bad, because the last hour—the movie clocks in at 150 minutes—feels unnecessary. The procedural elements is interesting until the red herrings start and the movie moves away from the ethical question that propelled the first half.
“Prisoners” is compelling stuff. At its heart it is a family drama with a twist. But as is, it almost feels like two movies.
In this weekend’s movie Prisoners a father, played by Hugh Jackman, kidnaps the man he thinks abducted his daughter and her young best friend. It’s a classic case of vigilante justice, a practice another movie character, Foxy Brown, called “as American as apple pie.”
It’s also illegal, dangerous and morally unsound, but that doesn’t stop Hollywood from featuring vigilantes in their stories.
Comic books have supplied the movies with vigilantes for years. According to comicbookmovie.com, “It is important to state one truth,” they write, “[and] that is, all comic book heroes, unless sanctioned by the government, are vigilantes.” That’s a wide group that includes, among others, Batman, Spiderman and Iron Man.
Lesser known is Rorschach, the anti-hero of the graphic novel The Watchmen and played by Jackie Earle Haley in the movie of the same name. He’s a masked crime fighter who believes in only good and evil. This black-and-white morality drives his ruthless need to punish evil-doers at all costs.
“Were it not for costumed vigilantism,” says the actor, “he’d have nothing.”
Rorschach is effective and lethal, but Paul Kersey didn’t wear a costume to earn his star on the Vigilante Walk of Fame. As played by Charles Bronson in five Death Wish movies, he cleaned up the streets with an efficiency that would make the Watchmen envious.
In the original 1974 film Kersey is an architect driven to taking the law into his own hands following the brutal murder of his wife. “If the police don’t defense us,” he says, “maybe we ought to do it ourselves.”
Star Bronson was quick to say that he didn’t “advocate anyone taking the law into their own hands,” but knew that the Death Wish movies were popular because, “Audiences like to see the bad guys get their comeuppance.”
Harry Brown is a gritty Gran Torino with British accents and a dash of Death Wish. Michael Caine plays the title character as High Noon’s Gary Cooper, but instead of being set on the wide open plain, the action in this Teabag Western takes place in the urban terrain of the Elephant and Castle section of London.
“This movie changed me,” Caine said. “I started out thinking, ‘Let’s go out and make a movie about killing all these scumbags,’ and then I met these people and realized they were helpless, just as much as the victims, and they had been neglected and they need help.”
At a Toronto International Film Festival press conference on Saturday, Hugh Jackman said his new film Prisoners is “not just (a film) that grips you and keeps you on the edge of your seat, but one that actually makes you contemplate the themes for days after on many levels.”
He plays a father who takes to vigilante justice after his child has been abducted. The Denis Villeneuve movie raises the question of whether Jackman’s character goes beyond the pale to get his daughter back or, alternatively, if he does enough.
“I can’t make up the mind of audiences,” he said. “I’m thrilled that Denis and Aaron (Guzikowski) wrote a script that forces that moral ambiguity. I think the film’s power exists in that.
“I’ll tell you a little story about watching the film for the first time with my wife, who was holding my hand. I literally had nail markings in my hand as she gripped me and then there were certain parts where she removed her hand from mine and I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I’m not sleeping in the marital bed tonight.’”
Jackman delivers a powerful, primal performance of a man on the brink. It’s work that drew praise from his co-stars.
“If you’re asking me if Hugh Jackman deserves an Oscar,” said Jake Gyllenhaal, “the answer to that question is absolutely yes.”
Co-star Terence Howard called Jackman, “a sweet man,” but added watching the actor’s strength of courage come through in the violent scenes was like “witnessing a man channelling all of this frustration,” not acting. “He deserves an Oscar.”
Jackman’s performance anchors the movie, which is unrelenting in its approach to telling the story.
“(The movie) is uncomfortable,” says Jackman, “You think, ‘OK, we’re going down this path with this guy and yeah, let’s enact some rightful justice.’ Then all of a sudden you feel uncomfortable and what that forces you to do is question, if you went along with him, why you so easily went with that way of thinking. It questions what you would do in that situation and that’s where the film’s power lies.”
“There is a reason we don’t just go to comedies,” he says. “Somehow as humans we also need to touch on real elemental fears that we push down every day of our lives. And collectively delve into and discuss it and feel.”