Monday, November 25, 2013

PRISONERS


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My friend and I are starting a blog about...actually, I don't really know what about. We're testing the waters with a variety of subjects we're passionate about so it's safe to say that we'll cover just about anything. A messy medley for now but we're hoping it'll shape up to be something people will love to read. Essentially what we want is to simply have fun with it. One thing we definitely wanted to cover are reviews. She loves books and I love movies. I started off by reviewing the movie "Prisoners" and decided I'd illustrate movies I'd review (the more elaborate reviews anyway). I will make sure to post a link of my review with every illustration, once the layout and everything else is finalized.

I wanted to capture the misty winter gloom that made this movie so bleakly beautiful, with its tones of grey-blues and dusty off-whites. The iconic RV makes an appearance along with the missing children, blending into the background's colour scheme like a vivid ghostly apparition. It took me a total of 2 days to complete and am quite pleased with the result. Have you seen Prisoners? If so, what did you think?


THE NUTSHELL

When Keller Dover's daughter and her friend go missing, he takes matters into his own hands as the police pursue multiple leads and the pressure mounts. But just how far will this desperate father go to protect his family? - IMDB description

Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Starring - Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Paul Dano & Melissa Leo.


REVIEW


The movie begins in a briskly edited fashion. Two families from the neighbourhood get together for Thanksgiving dinner. Adults set the table and cook whilst catching up. Kids play outside. Adults share some after-dinner laughs in the living room while teenagers watch TV. An ordinary celebration in middle class America. Kids haven't returned home. Adults and teenagers go on a search. Panic starts. There was a suspicious RV out on the street. Kids have officially gone missing. There's no beating around the bush. All of this 20 minutes into the movie. So what exactly is going to go down for the next 2 hours?



We've all seen CNN breaking news of a child gone missing and perhaps followed through the news to its end whether it'd be happy or, more often than not, a tragic one. Villeneuve takes you a little deeper into the emotional breakdown. With having two sets of parents experiencing the kidnapping at the same time, a spectrum of emotions is unraveled by a heavy dosage of heartbreak and helplessness. Hugh Jackman portrays a man of faith, a survivalist, as evident in the opening shots, but above all, a father overtaken by anger with a need on taking matters into his own hands.

Terrence Howard, however, is a man who trusts the law and justice, almost capitulating the turn of events. Viola Davis depicts a numb culpability while trying to come to terms with the disappearance of her child while Maria Bello's depiction is of a mother's descent to medicated depression caused by absolute guilt.

The procedure of an investigation can often be overlooked in many movies but is perfectly peppered in Prisoners. You quickly realize that there's no fucking around when it comes to an amber alert. Jake Gyllenhaal 's Detective Loki plays it too-cool-for-school, a confident lone wolf (while at times cocky) and direct. Through him we catch glimpses of interrogations, dissection of evidences and extensive searches as he tries to solve a case which draws him in the more he digs. 

The parental nightmare comes in the form of Paul Dano, playing a low IQ creep hiding behind too big a specs with a face that has the potential of being slathered on front page newspapers. His ability to make Alex Jones delicately intense with a mere whisper of a  'No' and a constant tenseness within his calmness proves once again that Dano is an underrated young actor. To Keller Dover, he is the one and only person who knows exactly what happened to his daughter. It's in the deepest cavities of his gut and he's out for revenge. Through his instinct, we are asked ethical questions. Can two wrongs really make a right? Can you fight evil with evil? Can a wrong really be justified? Questions upon questions that are never truly answered.

Plenty of praise has been raised for Jackman, who can play angry so very well it is straight-up terrifying, maybe even more so than Dano's eerie depiction. Gyllenhaal also deserves acclaim for playing a man whose weight on his shoulders noticeably gets heavier throughout the story. A man who's surely seen some crazy shit; who despite playing it cool has adopted a tick which, albeit minute, adds so much depth to his character. Melissa Leo also needs to be acknowledged despite her small role and screen time. Barely recognizable as Alex Jones' aunt, she embodies lower-middle class America by seamlessly blending in instead of sticking out as a loving 'mother' who recognizes that her son is a bit of a weirdo.

Visually, the wet winter gloom and bleak clinical fluorescent lightning is effective in all of its depressiveness. There were a few aspects that had me reminiscing David Fincher's Zodiac; in its subject matter of crime, puzzle solving and obsession (and perhaps Gyllenhaal being in both movies enhanced this). The use of slow zooms on a simple front lawn tree or a deteriorating apartment staircase is hauntingly chilling. The soundtrack isn't striking besides adding tension and suspense, it is certainly unnoticeable which I believe is a great aspect when considering the movie. It doesn't try to take centerstage and doesn't quite lead you to suspect trouble ahead.   

While I'd heard from several people that the movie ran for 2 and a half hours of mostly prolonged imagery and dialogues with sparse action to ease the suspense, I have to say that it worked for me. I respected the attempt at being emotionally raw, made me eager for closure and got me feeling as helpless as the parents. The first act had me convinced that this movie would be set apart from the rest; hoping it had some balls to be daring. And I rooted for it until I slowly came to the realization that it was just as Hollywoodesque as the rest. Prisoners had set itself out to be a little more meaningful and substancial than, say, a well-executed Gone, Baby, Gone. It could have. But it missed the mark. (Please note, that it is a general comment to the second act and has little to no regard to the ending specifically)

The sheer suspense and beautiful cinematography is enough to enjoy this ambitious movie but the slow pace can easily grab you in or let you down into a slow spiral. When trying to solve the whodunnit game, I suggest not digging your brains too hard since virtually no clues are made accessible to the viewer to figure out on their own. This storyline could have easily been a direct-to-DVD movie but with Denis Villeneuve's touch and an Oscar-nomineed cast to boot, you're bound to get a movie that's got a little extra je-ne-sais-quoi than the regular blockbuster abduction movie. Unfortunately not all actors besides Gyllenhaal & Jackman had the chance to put their full potential on display, only scratching the surface of their characters. And truth is after recently watching a movie as brilliant as Incendies, it's hard not to set the bar a little higher on Villeneuve.  Some scenes are particularly difficult to swallow and they will definitely linger in your memory but it doesn't help itself to the fact that, despite some light Oscar buzz, it is as memorable as plenty of child kidnapping movies.

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