Prisoners *½ (R) If you hear any Oscar buzz surrounding this grim drama about a couple of young girls abducted from their middle-class suburban neighborhood on Thanksgiving, consider finding new sources. Hugh Jackman and Terrence Howard play the frantic, grieving dads; Maria Bello and Viola Davis, the devastated moms; Jake Gyllenaal, the cop in charge of finding them before it’s too late. The major theme is how far Jackman will go to force the leading suspect (Paul Dano) to tell what he knows while there’s still a chance of rescue.
The plot plods intolerably through Pennsylvania’s seemingly endless autumnal rains. The dreary climate engulfs the raw emotions of those affected, swamping scenes that might have been more compelling in a more efficient presentation. There’s nowhere near 150 minutes worth of quality, much less necessary, footage in the version that reached theaters. A stellar cast (also including Melissa Leo and Len Cariou) is wasted. Perhaps Director Denis Villaneuve lacked the courage or the clout to trim the camera time of such lauded actors. Even worse for so-called thrillers, I was almost certain about the who and why of this crime very early in the proceedings, making it especially disappointing when we all were eventually allowed to see how right I’d been. The girls were prisoners in the script. The audience was similarly situated in the theater. A topic this serious deserves far more insightful and illuminating treatment from anyone trying to make culturally relevant films. (9/20/13)