Prisoners Review: An Exercise of Tension, But Not Ambition

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Prisoners is a very well done exercise of tension that will leave you breathless from start to finish. Is it much more than that? No, but let’s face it, right now 2013 feels like an endless drought.

What makes Prisoners the most exhilarating thriller of the year so far is the pacing. We start on Thanksgiving day as two suburban Pennsylvania families get together for dinner. It’s not long before the two youngest children from both families disappear. From there we go day by day as the parents work with the cops to find their children.

There is little separating this story from the stories you hear on the nightly news. Maria Bello in particular could have been a distraught mother taken right from a news package. Hugh Jackman on the other hand continues to show his masterful skills as an actor, this performance being a far cry from both his Oscar nominated Les Miserables and the never-ending iconic portrayal of Wolverine.

Jake Gyllenhaal feels a lot like your typical noir hero, similar almost to Bradley Cooper’s role in this year’s other shocking thriller The Place Beyond the Pines.

These players all intersect with the creepy Paul Dano, the supposed kidnapper. The intricate plot consistently surprises, as chaarcters weave around each other trying not to step on any toes.

Granted, the film could use a lit fat trimming, clocking in at just under two and a half hours. But it’s rare that the length rears its ugly head in this deeply effective story. There’s hardly a single scene that isn’t overflowing with tension. That’s the majesty of PrisonersNothing really separates this film from the other generic thrillers that hit screens every few weeks other than that it hits all the right notes at the right moment nine times out of ten. That’s a difficult thing to pull off.

But it’s the occasional miss that won’t put Prisoners on the same list as a lot of other classic thrillers. However, it could be remembered come awards season for Jackman’s performance alone. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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