Saturday, August 31, 2013
Prisoners was shown at the Telluride Film Festival last night. Stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman were not in attendance, but director Denis Villeneuve was there to premiere his first Hollywood movie to a stunned audience:
The thriller, which breaks the rules of genre by focusing on character and the degrading effects of violence on people's souls, played well. Even viewers who could not stand its violence agreed afterwards that it was a stunning, overpowering film.
The applause was strong and early critical praise is over the moon. Pundits will have to add this Alcon production being released by Warner Bros on September 20th to the list of strong Oscar contenders this year. That is , if audiences and academy members can handle the intensity of this superbly directed and produced film that features career best performances , for sure, from Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman (okay, I liked Les Miz too a lot) plus a brilliant supporting cast including Melissa Leo going for another supporting win, Terence Howard, the great Viola Davis, Maria Bello and Paul Dano who goes through the ringer for his art. You can easily compare this gem to critically acclaimed pictures like Zodiac, Seven, Mystic River and any number of films in the genre.
Look, it’s not an easy sit but as Telluride’s Julie Huntsinger had planned to say in opening remarks before she was called away, "I’m sorry, and you’re welcome..."
At the films’ Telluride after-party Friday night Villeneuve also talked about Enemy, the intimate drama he made before Prisoners with Gyllenhaal in the lead. Like Prisoners it will be playing next week in Toronto. Unlike Prisoners it is looking for a domestic distributor. Also at the party Alcon’s Andrew Kosove, his wife and fellow producers Kira Davis, Broderick Johnson and Adam Kolbrenner were truly euphoric about the initial Telluride and critical reaction to the movie. Villeneuve was glued to his iPhone awaiting new reviews. Such is the life of a filmmaker with a movie just about ready to go out in the world.
The producers must have been happy, as the reviews so far have been stellar. From Variety:
The wages of sin, guilt, vengeance and redemption weigh heavy on the characters of “Prisoners,” a spellbinding, sensationally effective thriller with a complex moral center that marks a grand-slam English-lingo debut for the gifted Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve. Powered by an unusually rich, twisty script by Aaron Guzikowski (“Contraband”) and career-best performances from Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, this tale of two Pennsylvania families searching for their kidnapped daughters sustains an almost unbearable tension for two-and-a-half hours of screen time, satisfying as both a high-end genre exercise and a searing adult drama of the sort Hollywood almost never makes anymore.
The Hollywood Reporter:
Jackman gives what may be the most intense and satisfying performance of his career. As the film progresses, we learn that Keller is a far more complex and tormented character than his first appearance as macho hunter suggested. A recovering alcoholic and less than perfect husband, he seems to be acting out these vigilante fantasies as a way of compensating for a deep-seated sense of inadequacy. Jackman illuminates the character’s conflicted nature without ever begging for sympathy. Gyllenhaal is also playing a troubled character, a suspicious loner who nonetheless has a strong desire to help people in need, and he wins our sympathy for this dogged detective without in any way idealizing the character. Howard and Davis are excellent, as always, though one flaw of the film is that they have too little to do in the second half of the story.
As the plot twists multiply and tension mounts, the film reaches a climax that is satisfying without being predictable. Special praise should go to the sound engineer for a shrewd touch in the very last scene that brings the story to an absolutely perfect conclusion. Prisoners can at times be a hard film to watch, but thanks to all the talent involved, it’s even harder to shake off.
More from Deadline:
I don’t think there’s a single laugh in the film , no relief. You are simply wrung out by the end. The title is appropriate. All the characters are prisoners in their own right. This is a major achievement, one I can see landing several significant Oscar nominations. The journey is just beginning for the film. Villeneuve gives much credit to the casting and his key stars. “If you cast someone like Jake Gyllenhaal you know he will invade the part totally and create something. My background is documentary. I am used to listening to life. The more I am doing fiction movies, the more I love actors and want to give them freedom there is nothing more exciting than to let chaos happen in front of the camera,” he said while adding he was also more impressed everyday with Jackman as well as Gyllenhaal. He said Jackman is an actor without ego.
Director Denis Villeneuve and actor Jake Gyllenhaal are on the precipice of having a tremendous fall film festival season. Arriving in just a few short day is their first collaboration, “Enemy,” a terrific psychological doppelganger thriller that will premiere next week in Toronto.
And on "Prionsers": While Jackman is more than genuine as the father driven to the ends of his frayed tether to find his daughter -- and a few particular scenes with his son are heartbreakingly emotional -- it’s Gyllenhaal as the in-his-world, indefatigable detective that takes over as the heart of movie in the end with an impassioned but controlled tenacity that never asks to be applauded as heroic.
As the Variety reviewer tweeted: Wow!