‘Prisoners’: The Reviews Are In!

Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal give their most intense performances in a haunting drama about the search for two kidnapped children.

With Oscar season fast approaching, two big-name Hollywood actors have just become top contenders for awards thanks to their emotionally raw performances in the new movie “Prisoners.”

Hugh Jackman stars as Keller Dover, the father of one of two kidnapped girls who turns to a detective, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, for help. But when their only suspect, Paul Dano’s creepy Alex Jones, comes off clean, Keller takes matters — and Alex Jones’s life — into his own hands. The ensemble cast, which also includes Maria Bello, Viola Davis and Terrence Howard in standout roles, all ride a moral roller coaster as the hours without their young children stretch into days.

While critics went into “Prisoners” expecting it to be the typical Hollywood revenge film befitting such a star-studded cast, they left emotionally ravaged by the film’s grisly twists and turns. Director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger A. Deakins devote their detail-oriented touch to accurately recounting every excruciating detail of this hellish ordeal, providing a film-going experience that is as engaging as it is horrifying. Critics have heaped praise on every member of the cast, calling this Jackman’s best work to date. The film’s subject matter may not be for everyone, but the talent on display here is impossible to ignore.

Read on for a sampling of “Prisoners” reviews.

Mainstream And Artful
“French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, who made 2010′s captivating Oscar-nominated ‘Incendies,’ has fashioned a film that is both mainstream and artful. ‘Prisoners’ is infused with a poetic intensity that’s rare in American thrillers. The closest cinematic comparisons would be ‘Zodiac,’ ‘In the Bedroom’ and ‘Mystic River.’ … With its grisly realism, ‘Prisoners’ is much more terrifying than any horror film, simultaneously grueling, spellbinding and contemplative.” — Claudia Puig, USA Today

Powerful Ensemble
“The acting ensemble here is first-rate. Gyllenhaal plays a taciturn cop with secrets of his own — and, deep inside, his own rage. Bello, with few scenes, heartbreakingly shows us a broken woman trying to fill in emptiness with medication; Davis, likewise underused, conveys both quiet goodness and overwhelming despair. (In one of many poignant details, we see Nancy in her kitchen days after her daughter has vanished; the half-eaten Thanksgiving dishes still sit on the table, untouched.) Dano, speaking in a voice that seems to come from some other place entirely, haunts us — is he, or is he not, a villain? … ‘Prisoners,’ like ‘Mystic River’ (which it resembles, in mood and effect), takes us to some terribly dark places, and doesn’t let us quickly return to the light.” — Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times

Full Of Twists And Turns
” ‘Prisoners,’ directed by Denis Villeneuve (‘Incendies’) from a script by Aaron Guzikowski, is no shallow payback thriller. It’s a dazzlingly potent, ambitious, and complex movie, a film that forces you to ask questions that have no easy answers. … There are a great many twists and turns — both suspenseful and thematic — to come. Yet at the heart of ‘Prisoners’ is something primitive and elemental and gripping, an obsession with torture, morality, and the impotence of the justice system that speaks to our time as intensely (and maybe controversially) as the pitch-dark vigilante thrillers of the ’70s once spoke to theirs.” — Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

Captive Audience
” ‘Prisoners’ is the kind of movie that can quiet a room full of casual thrill-seekers. It absorbs and controls your attention with such assurance that you hold your breath for fear of distracting the people on screen, exhaling in relief or amazement at each new revelation. By the end, you may be a little worn out, and perhaps also slightly let down by the fussily clever revelations that wrap up the story, but in the meantime, you are a willing captive, unable tell the difference between dread and delight.” — A.O. Scott, The New York Times

You Can’t Shake It
“Hugh Jackman gives a powerhouse performance as Keller Dover, a Pennsylvania contractor, survivalist and recovering alcoholic whose six-year-old daughter goes missing on Thanksgiving Day. He’s matched by Jake Gyllenhaal, who is exceptional, haunted and haunting, as Loki, the obsessive cop who isn’t acting fast enough for Keller. … Villeneuve takes his unflashy time building character and revealing troubled psyches in the most unlikely of places. His work with the exemplary actors results in a film of startling impact, packed with twists you don’t see coming. You can’t shake it.” — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

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