Wednesday, April 23, 2014

3 Short Paragraphs: Prisoners

2013, Denis Villeneuve (Incendies) -- download

I briefly commented on my review of Starbuck that I liked the way it used its locations, but I never really said why. Most movies dispense with the characterization of a location, seeking either very generic or very obvious shots. A movie set in NYC is going to show Times Square as often as it shows a street of brownstones that could, and often are, from anywhere. But the Quebec cinema, both in its geographic confines and its choices, often makes the more interesting choice.  Yes, more interesting even in the depiction of the mundane. The first thing that caught my eye in Prisoners was the older neighbourhood the movie takes place in. This is a suburb that has grown slowly over 30 years, seen via the mixture of middle class split-level and upper-middle class two story homes. With this we are connected to the two families who live here, one working class, one a little better dressed. Instantly, Villeneuve has shown a choice which, for me, made this very mundane crime story stand out.

The Dovers (Hugh Jackman & Maria Bello) are friends and neighbours with the Birches (Terrence Howard & Viola Davis), spending the Thanksgiving holiday together in a rainy, tired subdivision. The kids are bored, either lost in TV or running around outside. Then, as the cliche goes, every parent's worst nightmare happens and the youngest children are abducted. An obviously out of place RV leads investigators to Paul Dano's Alex, an obviously damaged young man. They are convinced he took the kids but cannot get anything out of him. Thus begins Keller Dover's descent, as he takes the investigation out of the hands of Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) and into his own bloodied fists.

At its heart, this movie is a standard genre crime movie, investigating the disappearance of two girls with some frustrating police procedural tossed in. Loki is good, too good for this small police department and he takes his frustrations out by bullying the Captain. But it is how this movie is wrapped that makes it pretty damned good. The main characters are its centre. Loki, obviously a man of violence from his old, faded tattoos works the case chained by protocol and fact. The more he is stonewalled, the more he blinks. Keller, a good, right Christian man, finds the violence within to actually dig out the truth. It is as chilling as the wet snow they slog through. When truths finally reveal, they shock both men, if not the viewers -- we are jaded, crime junkies while these play the part of real people for us.