Hugh Jackman and Paul Dano in "Prisoners"
Hugh Jackman and Paul Dano in “Prisoners”

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Prisoners is a deplorable film with more senseless torture scenes than Saw.  If given the option, I would prefer the latter and its considerably less hypocritical cruelty.  On a rainy Thanksgiving Day in Pennsylvania, two young girls vanish.  Their parents (Hugh Jackman, Terence Howard, Viola Davis, and Maria Bello) scour the community unsuccessfully.  Workaholic detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) investigates a local simpleton (Paul Dano), but finds no physical evidence.  Unconvinced, Jackman’s character kidnaps and imprisons the suspect before subjecting him to a series of violent interrogations.  Admittedly, the movie features excellent cinematography by Roger Deakins who lends the wintry backdrop somber poignancy (and I especially enjoyed the recurring images of blurred windowpanes).  Despite its tedious length and convoluted plotting, this ominous drama could’ve been a decent mystery-thriller.  However, director Denis Villeneuve is resolute about making a moral statement on violence in America.  Alas, his allegations are unbalanced at best, offensive at worst.  While the other grieving parents transform overnight from book club to lynch mob, Jackman’s paterfamilias remains a stereotypical redneck Republican who invokes scripture while hunting, hoards his basement like he’s expecting the Rapture, and locks a mentally handicapped man in a box for days without food or water.  The filmmakers make it so condescendingly obvious who the true monsters are, that the violence on-screen becomes pointless and sadistic.  Prisoners treats the audience with the same inhumanity it ostensibly condemns.


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