Prisoners

 
French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve's "Prisoners" is grimly relentless in its presentation of its premise that virtue if properly manipulated quickly morphs into vice. Villeneuve, an Oscar nominee for 2010's Incendies, and writer Aaron Guzikowski (Contraband) cynically explore the panic around the disappearance of two small girls on Thanksgiving Day. The father of one of the girls, played by Hugh Jackman, is a seemingly devout and devoted family man who immediately after the disappearance shifts into alpha dog mode, demanding action from the police detective assigned to the case (Jake Gyllenhaal), his family (Maria Bello and Dylan Minnette)  and the parents of the other missing girl (played by Terrence Howard and Viola Davis). When a simple-minded suspect (the ever-reliable Paul Dano) is questioned and then released, Jackman's character conducts his own bloody interrogation. Guzikowski's script contains a few neat twists and a couple of painfully convenient coincidences but overall it's an engrossing tale, tough to watch at times and, ultimately, sad and embittering. Recommended for the performances by Jackman, Dano and Gyllenhaal.

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