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Article by Teddy Durgin

Prisoners Won't Release You 'Til the End Credits

There's a great moment in one of the Pierce Brosnan James Bond movies when 007's mission goes terribly wrong and he has to take action, even though it will blow his cover and possibly lead to an international incident. His British superiors are watching the whole thing unfold via satellite, and one of the suits turns to Judi Dench's M and asks her with great outrage in his voice, "What the hell is Bond doing?!" To which she shoots him an icy look and replies, "He's doing his JOB!" I sometimes need my own personal Dench. Because at least a few times a year, I'll see a harrowing movie like "Prisoners" about a father who goes to frightening lengths when his 6-year-old daughter and her friend go missing, and I won't get over that film for several days afterward. And my wife who has to live with me will just shake her head and mutter, "Why do you do this to yourself?" In moments like that, I don't want to have to explain myself. Not after all these years. I just want to push a button on my remote, have Dame Judi open a door, walk into the room, look the Mrs. right in the eye, and retort, "Because it's his JOB!" What can I say? Some men fantasize about having their own personal serving wench. I yearn for my own personal serving Dench. I joke because I have to after seeing a flick like "Prisoners." Most people who know me know my daughter can tie my stomach up in knots just with a sniffle or a cough or a fall off the bicycle. But dealing with a little cold or a minor scrape on the knee is NOTHING compared to what must be the most agonizing feeling in the world when you realize you do not know where your child is and that he/she most likely has been taken. I hate even imagining that feeling for a few seconds. But "Prisoners" forced me and anyone in the audience who is a parent to deal with that conundrum for two-plus hours as Hugh Jackman's Keller Dover, his wife (Maria Bello), and their two neighbors (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) - parents of the other little girl gone missing - confront every mom and dad's worst nightmare. Then, the film challenges you to ponder... what exactly would you do to get your kid back? How far would you go? How LOW would you go? Emotionally, this film is spot-on. And if it were just one of those manipulative child abduction dramas structured to provide an emoting showcase for its leads, it would be worth seeing. What distinguishes "Prisoners," though, is what a skillfully crafted mystery it is. A decade ago when I was a single and unattached man, the movie would not have affected me on this primal parental level. It just wouldn't have. But I would totally have become absorbed in the thriller/police procedural elements. I would latch more onto Jake Gyllenhaal's intrepid police detective Loki, who's determined to solve the case that only gets more and more perverse the closer he gets to the truth. Jackman will get most of the accolades for this film, but Gyllenhaal is outstanding here. French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve follows up his 2010 Oscar-nominated stunner "Incendies" with some thoroughly engrossing work at the helm here. This is a somber, riveting work greatly helped by Aaron Guzikowski's tight, clever screenplay and the cinematography of the great Roger Deakins, who shot most of the Coen brothers' movies plus such other visual masterpieces as "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Skyfall." This is one heck of a motion picture, folks. "Prisoners" is a film I am not going to shake or "get over" for a while, even though next week I have to see flicks about a dude with a pornography addiction and a world threatened by giant food-animal hybrids. Why do I do it? Tell 'em, Judi. "Because it's his JOB!"

"Prisoners" is rated R for language and disturbing violent content throughout, including torture.

 

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