Josh Rottenberg
August 09, 2013 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Prisoners

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
146 minutes
Wide Release Date
09/20/13
performer
Paul Dano, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Melissa Leo
director
Denis Villeneuve
distributor
Warner Bros.
genre
Drama

We gave it an A

When you hear the term ”vigilante thriller,” you probably imagine the kind of slam-bang action film where Liam Neeson or Charles Bronson runs around cracking baddies’ heads. But Prisoners — the story of a detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) searching for two missing young girls and the desperate, anguished father (Hugh Jackman) who decides to take the law into his own hands — gives the genre a subtler, more dramatic treatment. ”It’s about the psychological and emotional journey as well as the whodunit part,” Gyllenhaal says. ”What’s different about this story is the idea that revenge just begets more revenge and you become a prisoner of that need to seek revenge. It’s still a vigilante story, but all of those other things coexist in it — which I think attracts a certain type of talent.”

Indeed, the story’s added depth attracted an impressive cast of heavy hitters, including four Oscar nominees (Jackman, Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, and Viola Davis) and one Oscar winner (Melissa Leo). ”The privilege of working with these other actors was wonderful,” Gyllenhaal says. ”When you have somebody who’s as much of a behemoth as all of these people are, you’re just sort of riding the wake.” French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve — who himself earned a Best Foreign Language Film nod for his 2011 drama Incendies — says that Prisoners is the type of complex adult drama Hollywood rarely makes anymore. ”The movie is entertaining, but it’s more than that — it’s talking about our lives today, about our relationships with our institutions and whether or not we trust them,” he says. ”Every part has a lot of meat on the bone, and actors are hungry to find that kind of story.”

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