26 September 2013 | FilmMuscle
A True (and terrific) Exploration of Moral Ambiguity
Wow, what an intensely suspenseful film Prisoners was. The film commences with a naturalistic and peaceful look of a suburban neighborhood, leafless trees calmly swaying along with the cool air that encompass them. All is fine, and a perfectly normal family visits their friends/neighbors for a delightful dinner and some music. Everything is fine and dandy until both family's two kids run off to retrieve a toy they left outside. After pleasant conversation, the two families begin to realize that their kids haven't gotten back yet. The noiseless environment around them feels incredibly unusual, and once they realize that their kids have officially gone missing, chaos breaks loose. We are suddenly presented with a ruthless father (played by Hugh Jackman) who loves his daughter so much that he's willing to transcend any morally difficult obstacles to hopefully locate her.
A spectacular cast, ranging from the likes of Hugh Jackman to Jake Gyllenhaal to Viola Davis and Terrence Howard, create such a chilling atmosphere that everyone in the audience immediately notices the discomforting subject matter as they prepare for a disturbing viewing. One should know prior to visiting the movie theater that this film doesn't feature morally perfect individuals. They are all human beings cast into an unbelievably frightening situation, and this is where larges amounts of debate will stir. There's one side of the audience that will persistently detest the characters' actions and the characters themselves, and there's the other side (which I am proudly a part of) that will essentially understand that people can't possibly (always) be the "goody-two-shoes" heroes, perceived in Hollywood blockbusters, in reality- that, by god, I will partake morally and ethically questionable activities to save a precious, loved one, absolutely! Such conversation/argument is healthy for it proves the memorability factor of the film itself. After you witness the terrifically-crafted picture, you will find enjoyment in discussing the movie's events with friends and family with- eventually- two sides forming over the talk.
And holy crap is Hugh Jackman entirely convincing in his performance. You can see the longing to find his sweet, innocent daughter through his miserable eyes, filled with redness, desperation, and anger. Then, there's Jake Gyllenhaal as the second lead, playing an ambitious cop who holds a very impressive resume: no unsolved cases left under his plate. Can that mean his skill will greatly help in this predicament? On a similar note, Paul Dano takes the prize after Hugh Jackman for another wonderful performance. No offense or anything, but he completely fits into these immensely creepy and eerie roles.
Speaking of, the soundtrack will definitely remain in that shocked mind of yours long after you've left the theater because it fills us with a sense of hopelessness and discomfort. At times, it sounds exceptionally ominous with the disconcerting sound of those violins in play. At others, it sounds like the music weeps for all those involved. The pace never seems to drag even though it clocks in at around 150 minutes as you remain at the edge of seat the entire time, utterly perplexed by everything that's transpiring and wholly befuddled by the choices that these people are making. The film will make you cringe and question the humanity of the participants or the competence of our law (that word could mean two things). Although I was slightly disappointed with the end result, the majority of the film strongly intrigued me. And, oh, how could I forget, the cinematography is simply amazing. Roger Deakins, the brilliant cinematographer behind last year's Skyfall, manages the camera-work of this film as well. As one wise critic said, a drive in the rain never felt so disquieting- a moment of foreboding.
Furthermore, I would not recommend skipping out on Prisoners unless you're of the type that prefers more lighthearted and fun movies like The Avengers. If you love films that explore more than just entertainment and "fun," such as important themes and moral ambiguity as a whole, you cannot go wrong with Prisoners. With a mix of top-notch cinematography, remarkably unsettling music, superb performances, and a thrilling/powerful story, Prisoners will definitely be one of this year's features that I'll surely be remembering. The true cinema season has started; now, let's hope every film from here on out delivers like this one did.