We open with a shot of a snow-covered forest while a man recites the Lord’s Prayer, and the camera slowly pulls back to reveal the crosshairs of a rifle aimed at a deer through the trees. This evocative opening is a strong prologue to the film, introducing the intertwining between religion and violence that continues throughout the film. Characters pray before committing acts of atrocity, they ramble about wars with God, and there are crucifixes hanging all over this movie.
The two men hunting together were father and son, and when they arrive home they package the meat and bring some with them to Thanksgiving with their at the neighbor’s house. The Dovers (Hugh Jackman & Mario Bello) have two kids about the same age as their friends the Birchs (Terrence Howard & Viola Davis), and the two families enjoy a nice Thanksgiving Day together. The two young girls Anna and Joy innocently ask if they can run over to the Dover household, and the parents’ main concern is that the girls wear hats to keep warm. Little do they know that this might be the last time they ever see their daughters, as little Anna and Joy go missing that afternoon.
Making matters more complicated with a dark discovery in the house of an alcoholic priest who claims to know about child abduction, and the later appearance of a disturbing figure at a candlelit vigil for the girls. Loki pursues many leads but the film takes so many twists and turns that we don’t see the end coming until it is already near upon us. Prisoners is also loaded with tension so strong many will remain at the edge of their seat, pulses still pounding long after the credits roll.
A superbly made film, Prisoners justifies every bit of its 153-minute runtime, as the plot thickens and tensions rise. Denis Villeneuve directs with an eye for style and the intensity reminiscent of a younger David Fincher. His lead actors all give stellar performances, but Jackman’s forceful lead is the most memorable. While it isn’t without flaw, Prisoners is certainly a more than respectful addition to the kidnapping thriller genre, and I eagerly await Villeneuve’s next English language feature.