Wednesday, 9 April 2014

"Prisoners" on BLU RAY – A Review Of The 2013 Film…

Here is a link to Amazon UK to get this BLU RAY at the best price:

“…He Knows Where They Are!” – Prisoners on BLU RAY

Young parents Keller and Grace Dover walk over to the suburban home of Franklin and Nancy Birch in the November cold for a Thanksgiving Dinner involving neighbours, laughter and bad trumpet playing (Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello, Terence Howard and Viola Davis). Their respective daughters of 7 and 6 Anna and Eliza happily play upstairs with a pet while the adults below drink and reminisce. That is until both children go outside to play - and unaccompanied - addle up to the back of a muddied RV parked suspiciously by the kerb in broad daylight...

Although I thoroughly despise material that uses children being hurt as entertainment - "Prisoners" beats the pants off so many supposed thrillers because it reeks of intelligence (a fantastic and clever script) and has a cast that emotionally rivets you to the screen every second they're up there. It's also prepared to be silent - ordinary even - thereby making some scenes disturbingly close to how real life actually is. It's unnerving, creepy and stomach churning in places too (there are monsters out there).

In order for this to work you need major league actors - and lots of them - and right down to a repentant Paedophile Priest - even the small parts are perfectly cast. Hugh Jackman plays Keller Dover - a redecorator/builder and a 'prepare for the worst' deer-shooting survivalist - while his wife Grace believes she'll and her family will be 'safe' with him. Mild-mannered neighbours and friends Franklin and Nancy Birch have the opposite dynamic - the wife is the boss while her husband is more reflective.  But when a local simpleton Alex Jones is found singing in the front seat of the squalid RV and arrested but won't talk - both sets of parents have their patience and nerves tested. Frustrated by the cops lack of progress and working to the letter of the law - and with the days passing and time running out for their abducted daughters - Alpha Male Keller decides to take matters into his own hands...

Into this emotional cauldron comes Detective Loki who’s solved every case he's ever been given. He may at times seem too detached from the parent's pain and rage - but he's a man who spots things and sees through the lies in people (a mesmerizing Jake Gyllenhaal). Obsessive yet law-abiding - he instinctively feels that spaced out Alex Jones who can't say much but can still drive an RV easily - is lying - sickly concealing the whereabouts of the girls and enjoying the cat and mouse game too (an Oscar performance yet again from Paul Dano - the preacher in "There Will Be Blood"). But is he? And what about his heart-broken mother (subtle brilliance from Melissa Leo) who has defended this social outcast all her life - despite her religion-obsessed husband leaving years back and abandoning them both. Keller even goes after her. In the meantime Grace Dover (a ragged looking Maria Bello) simply breaks at the enormity of her child being lost - while the stoical Nancy folds her arms, grits her teeth and reconciles herself to what both fathers must do - go over demarcation lines you really shouldn't cross...

The genius of Aaron Guzikowski's script and Dennis Villeneuve's Direction is that one whole hour in - and you're absolutely none the wiser as to who is the bad guy and who isn't. And it has to be said that some of the violence is horrible and cringing. But what keeps you watching is the sheer visceral power of the actors. The dance between Jackman and Gyllenhaal is fantastic cinema - both men barely holding on to any humanity or faith as the frustration mounts and suspicions arise (exactly the sick kind of mental torture the abductor wants to inflict on them). And you also sit there questioning just how far a determined parent would go to get their child back (abusing a man who may or may not be an innocent).

Special mention has to be made of the picture quality of the BLU RAY. Defaulted to Full Aspect (which fills up the whole screen) - "Prisoners" is starkly gorgeous and truly beautiful throughout. Often without any music - the blunt and stainless steel cold angles ratchet up the tension to unbearable levels (fear of what is happening to the children). It's the Cinematography genius of ROGER DEAKINS ("The Shawshank Redemption" and "True Grit"). Scene after scene is filled with it: casing a house in the pouring rain at night - Jones walking his dog as Keller spies on him from a nearby truck - the decaying body tied to a chair in the basement of a suspect's house - Detective Loki interviewing a sex offender you can't see behind a filthy pane of glass - Loki's tired bulging eyes and unkempt stubble (hasn't slept for days) as he leans forward into a computer monitor scouring the screen for any detail that will help - closing in on the jagged bark of a tree... The framing of everything is the unsung hero of the movie - adding unbelievable depth and genuine unease that serves right up until the superb and clever ending.

There are two Extras - the short "Every Moment Counts" and the more extensive "Powerful Performers" which features enthusiastic interviews with all the principal actors, Director Dennis Villeneuve and Producers Kara Davis and Broderick Johnson. But don't watch "Powerful Performers" before you watch the movie - it rather clumsily gives away far too much in terms of the twisting plot.

The brilliant and unsettling "Prisoners" had my wife and I on the edge of our seats unable to press the pause button to desperately go to the loo. Now that's how you put the 'thrill' in thriller.

Job done I'd say...

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