Movie Review:‘Prisoners’ freed by strong Jackman display

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Hugh Jackman, left, and Paul Dano in a scene from "Prisoners." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, Wilson Webb) ORG XMIT: NYET949
This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Hugh Jackman, left, and Paul Dano in a scene from "Prisoners." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, Wilson Webb) ORG XMIT: NYET949

Hugh Jackman’s performance in ‘Prisoners’ should earn him a nomination at next year’s Oscars.

Hugh Jackman’s performance in ‘Prisoners’ should earn him a nomination at next year’s Oscars.

Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Prisoners'.

Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Prisoners'.

Jackman (‘Les Miserables’ and ‘The Wolverine’), who plays Keller Dover, a father distraught after the disappearance of his young daughter and her friend, is the film’s pièce de résistance.

Denis Villeneuve’s film feels overly long at times but Jackman’s power and high levels of emotion make ‘Prisoners’ feel utterly real and full of despair.

The film has several gaping plot holes but Jackman and, despite his brief showing, Paul Dano are tremendous.

Keller and his family join their friends Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) for a Thanksgiving dinner.

When Keller’s and Franklin’s youngest children disappear without a trace. An all-out search ensues and the driver (Paul Dano - ‘Ruby Sparks’) of a clapped-out campervan becomes the prime suspect.

Dano is superb as the socially awkward loner Alex Jones and when he’s eventually arrested by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) you can’t help but feel that he knows what happened to the two girls.

Loki doesn’t have enough evidence to charge Jones and is forced to let him go.

Outraged that Jones is free to walk the streets while his daughter and her friend remain missing, Keller decides to take the law into his own hands and abducts Jones, takes him prisoner. He proceeds to beat and abuse him into submission.

‘Prisoners’ is written by Aaron Guzikowski (‘Contraband’) and whilst it’s a movie bathed in darkness and despair it reads perfectly as a look at America’s continuing struggle with its ‘war on terror’. At the very heart of the movie is a question which is spine-chillingly poignant - how far would an individual or a country be prepared to go to protect their family or people?

Villeneuve’s movie is certainly thought-provoking but it is sometimes awfully predictable.

Jackman’s Keller is a proud gun-toting American who, at the beginning of the movie, asks his friend Franklin to play the ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.

Keller is utterly obsessive about the supposed threat to his family - so much so he has stockpiles of food and ammunition in his basement for emergencies.

The film’s opening scene sees Keller and his young son Ralph stalk and kill a deer. Keller turns to Ralph and tells him always to be ready. This is especially ironic as no level of preparation could soften the blow experienced by Keller and his wife when their daughter goes missing.

Although set in rural Pennsylvania, the scenery sometimes feels like something lifted out of a Scandinavian crime novel. It’s rain-ravaged landscape increases the ever- rising sense of dread.

Gyllenhaal’s Detective Loki is an interesting character but his inability to deduce certain clues and piece them together was a little frustrating if not distracting.

The film’s finale will divide many and despite its predictable nature it fades to black wonderfully.

‘Prisoners’ is currently showing at the Brunswick Moviebowl. For full film listings visit www.brunswickmoviebowl.com or telephone 028 7137 1999