Wednesday, 9 September 2015


Lowdown: When two girls disappear, both a diligent father and an analytical policeman conduct their own investigation.
If you ever asked yourself the question “what can a good director achieve with the help of a good script and good actors nowadays”, then Prisoners (2013) is the answer you’ve been looking for. Superficially speaking, it’s a film we’ve seen many times before – a mystery/crime thriller – but oh how so well made this one is! All without the need to resort to modern pyrotechnics along the lines of CGI.
Stepping into the role of the good director is Denis Villeneuve, about whom I have never heard before but now I know to be the guy slated to direct Blade Runner’s sequel. For the actors part of the equation, Prisoners supplies Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal; clearly, this is as fine as one can get.
The script? It’s a tale of the sudden disappearance of two girls on Thanks Giving night. One girl comes from the paternal family headed by the Bible thumping Keller (Jackman), the other from their black neighbours’ friends. The police doesn’t mess about, sending its big gun along right off the start – detective Loki (Gyllenhaal), whose record sports no unsolved cases. Their only lead is the recollection the girls did express an interest in the campervan parked outside their home.
Thus commences a process where both detective and parent search for the girls their own way. Keller goes about the biblical way, if you will, apprehending his suspect without concrete proof and applying Guantanamo style torture. Loki, on the other hand, is very analytical; he has his own way of achieving progress, and won’t lift a finger without evidence. Prisoners uses the contradiction between the two approaches to raise before us this dilemma which our societies have been facing for a while now: do we follow our instinct or do we follow our brain? And when we do follow whatever we choose to follow, how far down the ethical abyss can we allow ourselves to plummet even in the name of the most sacred of causes – in Prisoners’ case, the rescuing of two young girls? Well, we know what path the USA chose.
Not that it really matters, but Prisoners seems to say you need a little bit of both approaches in order to “get there”. I disagree, but that does not detract from the fact the discussion is oh-so-well presented.
One of the beauties of Prisoners is the way it keeps us in the dark. As I have already mentioned, we’ve seen Prisoners before plenty of times; yet Prisoners has an edge in the fact it keeps us knowing only what the two leads know. We are in the dark just as they are, stumbling on dead ends and backtracking to find a new lead as we strive towards a solution. Yet, eventually, it turns out Prisoners is a clear case of Chekhov's gun. I will shut up now for fear of bloopers, but my point is – what a clever script!
Best scene: The injured Loki drives himself to the hospital under very hostile weather conditions. On paper it's a trivial scene, but it's so well directed and edited that it becomes a thriller ride of its own.
Overall: Prisoners is as good an offering as modern day commercial cinema can offer. 4.5 out of 5 crabs.

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