Prisoners arrived on a wave of high hopes - a bleak looking story played out by decent actors with hints of Se7en and maybe something vaguely labyrinthine suggested. And of course a bunch of reviews happily placing it up there with the best of the year. So it's a shame the film doesn't quite live up to any of this promise. The initial staging is intriguing despite being entirely unoriginal, which leads to a long, excessively bloated character piece that only feels like it has any impetus in it's initial frenzy and as it builds to it's intriguing denouement. Speaking of David Fincher films I was reminded more of the procedural Zodiac (lead star aside) as it tries to tell a slow methodical story. Except the difference between Fincher and director Denis Villeneuve is massive - cutting 30-40 mins out of Prisoners would've helped the story immeasurably.
What Prisoners has on it's side is a handful of intriguing ideas, not least how far a parent would go to get their child back and the blind ignorance to actual evidence that leads to devastating decisions in the process of doing so. Once we get more answers things become interesting, but the Se7en comparison amounts to about one sequence (hell at times it's almost more reminiscent of Saw), yet it could've done with more of this, and it's a film that feels depressing not least because of the subject matter but also the snowbound Pennsylvania setting, but lacks any of the visual verve of the aforementioned film. Hugh Jackman plays a determined everyman well, he's good in this sort of role. However Jake Gyllenhaal's detective is the more interesting character, but a frustrating lack of real development or understanding about who he is when there's clearly more to him than generic cop really limits the role. It's tempting to praise Paul Dano but he usually plays awkward misfit well so it's hardly a stretch for him. Prisoners might've been a more impactful film if it was considerably shorter, but ultimately it's a pretty standard example of an abduction film that in reality doesn't maximise the potential of it's ideas.