Movie Review: Prisoners (2013)

Prisoners-E invite R2

Plot:When Keller Dover’s daughter and her friend go missing, he takes matters into his own hands as the police pursue multiple leads and the pressure mounts. But just how far will this desperate father go to protect his family?

Prisoners reminds me oftwo things: why I really don’t want a rating system on my blog anymore and how hard it is to write about movies sometimes. Rating this film is particularly pretty hard. It is certainly another excellent film by director Dennis Villeneuve. He is the master of suspense, and if serious is your thing, you are bound to love him. He has an ability to slowly build his characters and give you surprising insight to their true colors when you least expect it.

The acting is superb. It is particularly easy to associate Hugh Jackman with only Wolverine, but here he proves the layered actor he can be. Keller Dover is a survivalist and a manly man. It is clear he takes pride in the protection of his family, and when his little girl is abducted after a Christmas dinner, he goes to desperate lengths to find her.

Prisoners1

Jake Gyllenhaal keeps up his plight for me to like him. Detective Loki is assigned to work the case. He’s never lost a case and has sharp instincts, but even he is at wits end when all clues lead to dead ends. There is also something quite sinister or desperate to his character, which is hard to pin down. He’s quite clearly very dedicated to his job, but does it with an unhealthy mindless intensity that suggests that the only thing he does have is his job.

Prisoners2

Then there is Paul Dano and David Dastmalchian, who both give chilling performances. Dano’s Alex Jones is a man of limited mental intelligence with an IQ of 10, but he manages to be so damn creepy I couldn’t reconcile myself with his innocence. Same goes for Dastmalchian – Bob Taylor is of such character that you need to suspect him.

PRISONERS

Viola Davis as Nancy Birch does what only Viola Davis can do – tell you a story with her eyes. Her dialogue is always secondary to the convincing way she embodies her characters’ every mood. She’s incredible as a grief stricken mother of the other little girl who went missing, a stark contrast to the total collapse Grace Dover (Maria Bellow) suffers.

Another opposite is that of how Franklin Birch (Terrance Howard) deals with the disappearance of his child, compared to manic rage that overpowers Keller. Terrance Howard has tangible grief on screen, and seeing his close friend unravel seems to unnerve him. He’s put in a terrible place – to either join in or condone Keller’s actions. It is a grey are that no person alive can answer correctly.

The plot is complex and winding and you likely need to watch this more than once to fully understand the story. The plot is every parents’ worst nightmare – a child that just disappeared with known sex offenders in the town. The dreary images of a town almost surviving in poverty but not yet there is bleak to behold. The violence is gritty and the atmosphere is tense. The cinematography is phenomenal.

My only complaint is this: it feels like it is 400 hours long (Zoë denies this, naturally). The end was just a bit too drawn out, and while I enjoyed the slow pace throughout the film, the slow pace of the last section annoyed me. There was also just a bit of an open ending, which frustrates me endlessly.

I will give this film a solid and respected nod with 8/10. It took me ages to watch, and I’m glad when I got to it I watched it with Zoë, because I would never have finished it on my own. It is really drawn out in the end and that is the only reason I haven’t rated it higher.

Movie Review: Arrival (2016)

arrival-banner

Plot: When twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world, linguistics professor Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language of the apparent alien visitors.

Since I haven’t read one bad review about Arrival and about ten million people asked me whether I’d seen it, I was really rather excited to get to this. I also loved Sicario, which at that stage had been my exposure to director Dennis Villeneuve’s work.

Arrival is one of the most unique and well thought out films I’ve watch in ages. It is some of the best work I’ve seen from 2016, and would certainly have altered my Top Ten list of 2016. Villeneuve has a talent to direct the dark and dreary. His signature style is tense and the subsequent underlying tension makes him a formidable force to watch in the future. He knows how to get the most intense emotions from his films’ stars, most evident in the way Amy Adams, Jermey Renner and Forrest Whitaker portray their part of Arrival.

"Story of Your Life" Day 37 Photo: Jan Thijs 2015

I guess I see now why people were so riled up when Amy Adams was not nominated for best actress. She was fantastic as Louise, a linguist who is tasked to extraterrestrial beings when they mysteriously appear in random locations across the globe. The lingual exploration was fascinating, which explored the dissection of communication and language. It made me realize that we take language for granted and how it forms and changes us. Talking is so natural, we rarely pause to consider how remarkable it is that we are talking.

I am also appreciative that Villeneuve once again provided a film with such a strong female lead. He obviously has an appreciation for strong female characters – can we have more of him please?!

arrival2

I always feel like a complete noob when talking about CGI. Visual design is one of the areas where I truly have no experience in (or a desire to get experience in). My adventures into more serious films have shown me however how much tone and proper CGI can affect a film. Arrival has incredible CGI. The Aliens are formed in a way that is slightly revolting and highly fascinating, light years away from our perception of beady eyed human forms. There is a particular scene with Adams that was mesmerizing – I get goosebumps just thinking about it. The directing also is sad and heavy and dark, and impresses the sadness which Adams’ character carries with her.

The eventual conclusion to this two hour masterpiece will stay with you – I am still wondering about the implications of it all. The focus, despite the entire plot, is not truly on the Aliens. It is more about how would we even talk to Aliens should they arrive on the planet.

Rating: A well-deserved 9/10