You ever have those moments in life where you first see a film’s theatrical trailer, having never known anything about it beforehand, and instantly “know” that it’s a film you want to see upon its release with no hesitations or second guessing? Well, that’s exactly how I felt about the film we are all gathered here to talk about today…now on Blu-ray…Prisoners. I explicitly love movies that explore the morality of characters and push boundaries by asking the question how far would you go to save your family and loved ones? OR What is a person capable of? It’s times like these when scruples are inconceivably tested, sometimes even thrown out the window and immovable obstacles suddenly become manageable. A real man will do whatever it takes to keep his family safe…even if that means compromising his morals and crossing that fine line of what’s right and wrong in life. You know you shouldn’t, but you know no one else is going to do it. You have no choice if you want a shot at saving the one(s) you love. The naysayers are always going to say nay. However, I say go get ‘em tiger! So tell me. Can you not see that these kind of stories really “move” me? You get my drift? Good! I’m glad. Because I want to talk some Prisoners!
Prisoners, directed by Denis Villenevue from a screenplay written by Aaron Guzikowski and executive produced by Mark Wahlberg, premiered a day before my birthday on August 30th this year at the Telluride Film Festival. The vigilante thriller film stars the famous clawed Aussie Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo and Paul Dano. That’s quite an impressive line up, huh? I think so! And that’s what matters most. The film even went on to garner mostly positive reviews with some that indicated universal acclaim. The film is still kicking it on Rotten Tomatoes too.
So picture this…you have a six-year-old daughter. It’s Thanksgiving. The family’s all over. Everyone is merry and having a ball. And then bam! Where’s my kid at? Your cousin says I just saw him playing with so and so outside in the yard. What?! I don’t see her anymore! Sadly, you can instantly blame it on bad parenting, not knowing where your kid’s at, not being born with eyes in the back of your head (a common problem with all humans), neglect…you name it, but what it always spells is T-R-A-G-E-D-Y. This is what happens to Keller Dover’s (Jackman) daughter, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich), and her best friend Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons), Franklin Birch’s (Howard) daughter, on Thanksgiving day as they are…kidnapped. And so our story begins…a story of two distraught families and a father who is hell bent on doing ANYTHING to find his daughter (exactly how I would be in a similar situation) and a younger detective in charge of the investigation, Detective Loki, brashly stands in his way. Loki! What a name, huh? I keep looking for his staff of powers.
After an exhaustive search through the neighborhood streets, Keller’s son, Ralph (Dylan Minnette), mentions seeing an old RV around the time when Anna was taken. This particular RV is owned by Alex Jones (Paul Dano). I like this actor. So you can imagine what goes down, right? Mr. Dover dons the Batman tights and decides to take the law and justice into his own hands after his frustration levels with the law’s futile attempts go above 10. You believe me? Okay, well everything except the Batman tights is true and it’s nothing you haven’t seen in the trailers either. Johnny Law takes in Jones, but they have nothing to hold him on and so our struggle begins. Come on! Y’all seen the previews and trailers. You don’t need me to tell you what happens next because you already know. However, it’s the way in which its done, carried out, filmed and wrestled with onscreen that transports Prisoners into darker quadrants not suitable for kids and even most adults too. But that is the crux of the story…the fork in the road. You must choose the path between good and evil. It’s like Harvey Dent once said and it couldn’t be truer about vigilantes…and heck, it even applies to the characters in this film. “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Does Dover have the right perp? He believes he does. Others have doubt in him. I guess when you watch this your moral compass is going to be bouncing all over the place. And that’s a good thing! That means the former indie, new Hollywood director Denis Villenevue did his job effectively. But what about the rest of the cast? I’m glad you asked!
I honestly thought this was one of Hugh Jackman’s strongest performances to date. Yeah, I know. A lot of peeps might refute that, but come on. The guy sold me with all his foaming at the moments moments. Through his tonal inflections I felt his pain and remorse at times. He was a dad that would do anything it took to find the whereabouts of his missing daughter and he sold me on that. Terrence Howard on the other hand, well what can I say? The guy is always so mellow it’s hard to determine his emotional qualities at times. I’m just kidding! LOL. He’s spot on here with how you would expect one to behave if you walked in the man’s muddy shoes. Both mothers, Maria Bello and Viola Davis, knocked their roles out of the park. You seemingly can always expect quality from Bello, but it’s the reactions of Davis that had me most interested here…and of course…you will find out why…WHEN YOU SEE IT! And that brings us to Gyllenhaal next. I couldn’t help being reminded of Zodiac for some reason, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s the methodological way his character goes about searching for the missing girls that is reminiscent of the film I guess. But that’s neither here or there. Prisoners is a film you must see.
If you have kids you MUST SEE this film if for nothing else so you understand what kind of sickos are out there in this cold, crude world and so you are painfully reminded to ALWAYS keep a close eye and ear on your kid’s whereabouts. Prisoners does run a tad too long for its own good, but it kept me a “prisoner” in my seat wanting to know how this film was going resolve. And when it did, I was quite satisfied. Was justice ever served? Whoa there bronco! You’re just going to have to find out for yourself if you haven’t already. One thing’s for sure, Prisoners takes no “prisoners” in its execution. Between the constantly butting of heads and non-cooperative tag team of Dover and Loki, they leave no stones unturned. And just when you think you have it figured out…oh there might be a wrench or two in there that will bop you on the head to remind you that you don’t know everything. Soul search no more! Your chance to experience this film on Blu-ray is almost here!
Have you ever seen the Warner Bros. Blu-ray transfer of The Conjuring this year? If the answer to that question is yes, then you already know how this one looks aesthetically speaking. Despite the muted color pallet, things look outstanding with this Prisoners transfer. It has some of the deepest and inkiest black levels I have ever seen on the Blu-ray format and it’s a good thing too as most of the film takes place in darkness. Just like the flick’s subject matter, the movie’s visuals are shrouded in utter darkness most of the times. However, that does not delineate fine details in the print like millions of individual soggy wet leaves, tree bark close ups, wood grain in doors, dirty windows, mud on boots, fabric in the many sweaters employed and even the individual strands of gray hair in Hugh Jackman’s goatee. I think you know where I’m going with this. I’m a big fan of the way things look here. There are also no visible artifacts, noise, specks or blemishes anywhere in the presentation to be found. The 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode frame in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio perfectly fills your HDTV’s screen and in my opinion, brilliantly captures the perils of jeopardy and the essence of what’s at stake here.
Much like in the video department above, the audio bumps the flick’s street creds as well with an authentic representation of all things required of the brutal onscreen events. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track makes an impact on you just like the sequences that unfold tragically in front of you on your HDTV. Every slap is met with a powerful THUD as Hugh’s character pounds Alex’s face relentlessly. Despite the many intentional camera cutaways, you’ll definitely still feel it. Trust me. The orchestral score will haunt your sound field and infect your subwoofer as it makes itself know through its many thunderous booms. Hard rain pours all around you. So I guess you can rest assured that you, the viewer, will feel like you’re in the driver’s seat here. No doubt about it. And most importantly, dialogue is loud, clear and intelligible throughout. Who can ask for more from a movie of this dramatic subject matter? Also selectable via the onscreen menus one can find French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks as well as English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Much to my surprise, for a new release Prisoners is pretty light on supplemental material. I honestly did not see that coming, especially with the bang up job Warner Bros. has been doing with all their big Blu-ray titles this year, but nonetheless, I’m just happy to have a fantastic movie on the format with remarkable audio and video. Extras come second in my opinion. So let me put my sleuth hat on and guide you around the three lonely extras you’ll find on this Blu-ray DVD Combo Pack. And look on the bright side! There is a UV Digital Copy!
- Every Moment Matters (HD, 3:05) – Actors Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhal explore the tense relationship and dynamics between Keller and Loki in this riveting extra. Clips of the film are shown throughout this quick featurette as events are told through quick interview snippets with Hugh and Jake discussing what makes this film so compelling to them.
- Powerful Performances (HD, 9:24) – This second feature allows you the viewer to get up close and personal with this all-star feature cast. It features our director, who says this film was all about casting to him as the performances had to be perfect, Jake discussing how far would you go to save the one you love, Hugh talking about his character and much more.
- UltraViolet Digital Copy (HD, 153 mins.) – Make sure you redeem your code and don’t forget about it. These things do come in handy when the Blu-ray disc isn’t readily available and you want to watch this on your favorite mobile device or even on your PS3 through the Vudu app.
With the exception of my recent review of Hugh Jackman’s performance in The Wolverine (review here), I feel this is one of his finest performances ever. He really puts you through the ringer as you feel his hardships (poverty, inability to provide for his family and most importantly the loss of his daughter) and willingly partake on this dramatic and tragic journey with him and the rest of the characters through their powerful and inspirational performances. The film takes you to some very brutal and dark territories, but I’m glad they didn’t shy away from anything. If you don’t question your scruples or Hugh’s character after watching this one, then I’m not sure you’re alive. It’s not a perfect film, albeit it’s a tad too long as was Zodiac back in the days, but with strong powerful performances and near perfect video and audio presentations, how can you go wrong with this one? This one is also highly recommended for any Hugh Jackman fan on your Christmas list.
Own Prisoners on Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital Download 12/17 by pre-ordering here or clicking the link below.