Prisoners, starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, explores a person’s capacity for both good, bad and keeping hold of their deepest secrets, in a morally complex thriller with a daughter’s kidnapping at the emotional center. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the crime thriller follows Keller Dover (Jackman) as he goes on a vigilante hunt for the man who kidnapped his daughter after Thanksgiving dinner.

Boasting an all star cast that also includes Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo and Paul Dano, Prisoners was favorably received by film’s top critics. From the pedigree of actors involved, to the manifold ways in which the kidnapping narrative is turned on its head, critics agree it’s a movie that’s a step above many. One criticism, however, is that after a movie’s worth of thrills, the lengthy ending leaves something to be desired.

“Denis Villeneuve’s kidnapping thriller — about the disappearance of two little girls and its aftermath — is as gripping as it is grueling, with performances that swing for the fences and a knotty central mystery. Hugh Jackman plays the most volatile of the four parents — he gives off fumes of self-righteousness even before he chains the leading suspect (Dano) to a sink — and Jake Gyllenhaal counterbalances him as the smart, increasingly stressed detective on the case. Villeneuve is aiming for the brass ring of The Silence of the Lambs and Zodiac, and he comes pretty close.” —Ty Burr, Boston Globe


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“After two hours of such relentless tension, Prisoners starts revealing its secrets to progressively hokier effect. In its final 30 minutes, Prisoners leaves the realm of frightening plausibility and edges into horror-movie turf, turning what had previously felt like genuine human evil into a monster that is easy to explain away. The sudden shift feels jarring and fake — it’s incredibly frustrating.” —Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

“The plot of Denis Villeneuve’s crime thriller Prisoners sounds like something we’ve seen before, and aren’t too anxious to see again: kidnapped children, a stymied police investigation, a desperate father bent on revenge and unafraid to take matters into his own (soon bloodstained) hands. But approach this film as a popcorn movie at your peril: Prisoners is a dark, deeply serious examination of how loss can unhinge us; it grabs onto you, and you may have trouble shaking it away.” —Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times.

It’s easy to make a thriller. It’s hard to make one that says something about human nature and then, like the hauntingly compelling Prisoners, finds something inside the genre that validates tying your nerves up in knots.… Director Denis Villeneuve makes Prisoners more than what it seems, as cinematographer Roger Deakins fills the snow-covered landscape with quiet dread. There are notions of lost and over-active faith, and a murky, situational morality. All of the characters are prisoners of something, including Grace, escaping her sorrow in prescription drugs.” – Joe Neumaier, The New York Daily News

Prisoners, rated R for language, violence, and adult themes, is currently in wide release.

– Chelsea Regan

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