At the beginning of 2013, we saw Mr Jackman sporting testicles on his throat while out on a date with Kate Winslet in the ill-advised and lamentable Movie 43. Next up he graced the ho hum Wolverine. He has now thankfully regained his dignity with his fierce, raging turn as a distraught father in this absorbing abduction thriller.
He plays hardworking carpenter Keller Dover whose six-year-old daughter goes missing along with her friend, Joy. The only suspect is mentally impaired Alex Jones (Dano), the owner of the RV that was spotted near the children's respective homes on the day they disappeared. Dover is so determined to find his offspring that he kidnaps Jones and tortures him to gain information as to her whereabouts. But is Jones actually the culprit?
Jackman pulls out all the stops with this performance. His wounded aggression resonates with full-throated authority. It's like a punch to the guts. He conveys in broad quick strokes the annoyance at the authorities in not acting quickly enough, and purposeful resolve when he finally gets a break in uncovering info. You fully believe that he might not be a particularly intelligent man, and are fully convinced by his excitable anger to track his daughter down, over-riding all other considerations in his life. Some mean-spirited blowhard critics have accused him of ACTING too much, but for me his vigorous, impassioned turn here is one of the very best of his career. He gives this compelling tale real heart.
Gyllenhaal plays Loki, the unlucky cop entrusted with the case. Due to an underfunded and understaffed police unit, he is the only detective given the task of finding the two little girls. As the days tick by, he becomes ever more tormented by the lack of success in finding them. Gyllenhaal is a subtle performer who works hard here to plausibly suggest his character's deep-rooted frustration. He does a very good job of it and his constant blinking is very effective.
There's top work too from Bello as Keller's wife, falling apart at the seams, and carefully shaded turns from Howard and Davis as the parents of the other missing girl, both slightly more level-headed at dealing with the tragedy. One must also not forget the ever dependable Leo, here giving a cagily nuanced interpretation as the suspect's aged aunt.Prisoners is not a date movie by any means. It's relentlessly grim, and the cold, wintry setting of an everyday suburb in Pennsylvania envelops it in a chilly atmosphere of gloom. Everyone is certainly miserable but don't be put off by that. It's so involving and classily acted that one can overlook its grey pallor and plot holes. Settle in and savour this adroitly directed affair. It's a cut above most crime thrillers and is well worth your time. A first rate effort that grips from the start and never lets up. You won't look at your watch once.
EXTRAS ★½ Just two short featurettes: Every Moment Matters (3:03) and Powerful Performances (9:22).