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Move review: Prisoners

Updated on September 19, 2013

It's difficult not to like Hugh Jackman; he's one of those actors with a larger than life personality, who also just happens to be very watchable. Yes, even it means watching him either in a stinking pile of poo or watching him play Wolverine for the umpteenth; or in the case of his most recent outing as the clawed one, both.

So when he finally gets around to making a film actually worth watching, all is briefly right with the world.

Out in the burbs of Pennsylvania, carpenter Keller Dover (Jackman), his wife Grace (Maria Bello) and two kids Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) and Ralph (Dylan Minnette) are spending Thanksgiving over at their neighbours the Birch's – Franklin (Terrence Howard) and Nancy (Viola Davis) and their two daughters Eliza (Zoe Borde) and Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons).

It's a long old day, and youngsters Anna and Joy soon get bored; Anna asks her parents if she can pop back to their house with Joy, and they agree as long as her older brother goes with them.

After a while both parents notice that it's been a little quiet and wonder were the girls have gone. When they speak to Ralph and Eliza, they realise that the young girls just decided t go to the other house by themselves.

Keller rushes home, to find no trace of the girls, and after checking the surrounding area it becomes frighteningly obvious they are missing, so they call the police. Called in to investigate is Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal); although he may well be a small town kinda cop, Loki has the perfect record when it comes to solving crimes.

But as hours slip away, Keller starts to lose faith in the police finding the criminal, and decides to step over the line and take matters into his own hands.

For French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, this is the closest foray yet into Hollywood, with his top notch cast, that also includes Paul Dano and Oscar-winning actress Melissa Leo. But as you would expect from the director of such sublime titles as Incendies, these added A-listers don't compromise his artistic vision; in fact it's fair to say that their inclusion only enhances it.

As premises go, it would be understandable to consider this another Taken: man's daughter gets abducted, he does all he can to get her back. The good news is however, that other than a similar storyline, these two films are polar opposites apart.

Villeneuve has a real knack for delving into the psyche of his characters. Much of the time this is projected by their emotional state rather by any words they say. Both Jackman and Gyllenhaal really don't have that much in the way of dialogue, but spend an incredible amount of time emoting their way through scenes, otherwise known as acting. Much of it is subtle and understated, with the only exception being that of Gyllenhaal's excessive eye-twitching. Dano in particular gives yet another sharp performance as a social reject.

Despite the film's worrying length –just shy of three hours – Villeneuve delivers his story with just enough intrigue that draws you in and holds your attention every minute of the way. Which is quite impressive, as not only does most of the film takes place in the pouring rain, it's also devoid of any kind of action sequences whatsoever.

What the film does have in abundance however, is edge, which is exactly where you'll be on your seat for the majority of the time. It's a dark journey, but one that is thoroughly absorbing.

4 booms

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