FILM 2013: #95. Prisoners
Everybody likes a gloomy juicy crime drama that’s as much about the people involved as it is the case that needs to be cracked, and having a great cast playing against each other is a good way to lift ropier material - which perhaps explains Prisoners’ box office success. Certainly it also helped from my perspective having Jóhann Jóhannsson on scoring duty and cinematography from Roger Deakins (one night-time blizzard-set driving sequence is properly breath-taking). But despite its attempts to mask its deficiencies with its pedigree in other departments, there’s something oddly inert about Prisoners that prevents it from being as compelling as it ought to be. The narrative is too built on happenstance and coincidence to satisfy, it dabbles in serial killer cliche, and things that probably seemed like a good idea at the time don’t work in the grand scheme of things (Jake Gyllenhaal’s incessant blinking is a trait that doesn’t come off). If that isn’t distracting enough, the main characters have super weird names (Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal are Keller Dover and Detective Loki respectively), and when that’s all you can think about, it’s clear the story isn’t working for you. It certainly gets a lot right, the look, atmosphere and particularly Jackman’s increasing frustration and desire to mete out his own brand of justice means it’s never not interesting (even over a two and a half hour running time). But for all its punch and panache when watching, it doesn’t linger long in the mind.