Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal put in two spellbinding performances in Prisoners, Denis Villeneuve's dark, moody crime thriller.
I was somewhat apprehensive about the two-and-a-half-hour running time, but that worry was immediately forgotten after the opening scene.
The film follows Keller Dover (Jackman), a burly, God-fearing carpenter in suburban Pennsylvania whose heavily stocked basement hints at survivalist leanings and the predilection to prepare for all eventualities. He and his family are blindsided when their six-year-old Anna disappears into thin air on Thanksgiving Day along with her best friend Joy, the daughter of their close friends and neighbours Franklin and Nancy Birch (Howard, Davis).
Their increasingly frantic search for the two girls is fruitless, with the only lead being a banged-up camper van parked down the road which the girls played on earlier in the day. It belongs to the almost-mute, childlike Alex Jones (Dano), a strange young man described as having the IQ of a 10-year-old.
Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) is having his Thanksgiving meal alone in a deserted Chinese restaurant when he gets the call alerting him to the possible suspect.
Prisoners is an utterly riveting, nail-biting drama that taps into the deepest, darkest fears. It's a haunting, visually stunning journey that contains a pervading sense of dread and perfectly executed level of suspense throughout. Not a moment of screen-time is wasted as we follow Keller and Detective Loki's twisting and turning journey to try to find the two girls. Moral ambiguity is at the centre of the film, as the viewer is forced to wonder how far they would go to bring back a loved one.
Jackman is outstanding as Keller, a complex and grief-stricken character that strays far from cliché. Explosive moments of rage and anguish contrast with the level-headed and methodical approach of Detective Loki, who Gyllenhaal plays with quiet intensity.
Apart from the excellent leading performances, the film is bolstered with equally brilliant supporting roles, with Paul Dano playing eerie Alex Jones to perfection and Maria Bello, Terrence Howard and Viola Davis playing the distraught parents of the two lost girls.
Villeneuve has delivered a near-perfect crime thriller that manages to sustain an excruciating level of suspense and foreboding. Not an easy watch, but one you're unlikely to regret.