Speaking as a father of two, a parent's worst fear is that something bad will happen to their children. And if that something bad does happen, what do you do? How do you cope? Who do you become? Where do you go next? In Prisoners (due out September 20), every single character is forced to spend time in their own hellish prison, be it physical or psychological (or both), when the kidnapping of two little girls rocks a quiet, little blue-collar Pennsylvania town. It's a cold, dark film that twists and turns its way down wintry roads, through empty woods and inside deserted buildings. It'll test the way you root for a character as you navigate your way around the many complexities a person faces during a tragic event. People throw around the term "edge of your seat" a lot when it comes to movies with a bit of a faster pulse, but Prisoners is different. It's an emotionally intense edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that won't let go of your mind, body and soul until the title card appears in the end credits.
There are many stars in this one (Terrence Howard, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo, Maria Bello), but the film truly belongs to Hugh Jackman and cinematographer Roger Deakins (Skyfall), whose stark, creepy visuals set an unsettling tone right from the start. Jackman plays a man's man, a survivalist who stocks up on supplies and advice for his son in the event the world as they know it begins crumbling around them. He's tough, rugged (and bearded), and when his precious young daughter goes missing during a Thanksgiving dinner with the neighbors (Howard, Davis), it's not long before he's taking matters into his own blood-soaked hands.
Standing in the way of this desperate father turned vigilante is a detective (Gyllenhaal) who's doing everything he can to solve the case and find those children without parental interference, as well as the father (Howard) of the other girl gone missing and the quietly deranged man (Dano) who may or may not know where the kids are.
As each minute ticks by without a resolution, tension builds. Just when you think you have it figured out, the script throws a curveball. Just when you think you know how it's going to end, the characters surprise you yet again. What's great about Prisoners is that it's a fantastic thriller that gives you just enough information to keep you glued to the plot while your emotions run wild, ultimately forcing each audience member into their own complicated confinement -- trapped somewhere between right and wrong, good and bad.
Where do you draw the line when it comes to protecting your family? It's not an easy question to answer, and it won't get any easier after you see Prisoners.
Prisoners is currently screening at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Check out more of our festival coverage right here.
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