Prisoners (USA, 2013)

prisoners-posterDirected by: Denis Villeneuve. So, first of all, now that I have some distance from this film, I don’t know if it’s actually as great as I kind of made it out to be in my real review. I must have been swept up in the moment, impressed by how much incredibly better it was than the last piece of garbage I had to review for print. Compared to that, this is the best movie ever made—it’s a real movie! It has depth, ambiguity, a masterful command over every moment we see onscreen. There is such care in this film, and it looks so damn good. On the other hand, as I realized to some embarrassment, this isn’t Denis Villeneuve’s best film, or at least not that I’ve seen. I haven’t seen Incendies (and it’s supposed to be good), but Maelström and Polytechnique were two of the best films I’ve ever seen, the former for being so masterfully bizarre, the latter for being so powerful and horrific. Years later, they both stand the test of time as some of the most memorable films I’ve ever seen. If I had to assign a five-star rating to either of those, I’d be tempted to give them 5, but in the interests of caution, I’d probably say 4. Prisoners, on the other hand, would probably be more safely dealt a 3. That being said, on this blog, there are no stars, so it doesn’t matter anyway. This is a perfectly good film, and if I were pressed, I’d have to admit that I think that it’s better than a perfectly good film. It’s got a lot of things I like—intense characters who are hard to pin down, moral ambiguity, deliberate and self-aware camera movement, a fluid narrative built from cinematic language that is somehow visible while being invisible, a great, minimal soundtrack by Icelandic avant-garde composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, and a completely fucking beautiful cinematography job by arguably the best living cinematographer, Roger Freakin Deakins. As someone who doesn’t get out to see new movies half as much as he should, I will cautiously venture that this is among the best films being made today, after you discount children’s Pixar mini epics and CGI teen/adult superhero epics, and CGI apocalyptic epics, and so and and so on. This movie reminds me of The Paperboy, just to the extent that it’s a mature, masterful film that explores uncomfortable subjects in an intelligent, beautiful way—an adult film for adults.

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2 responses to “Prisoners (USA, 2013)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2013 | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: Sicario (USA, 2015) | Offhand Reviews·

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