“Pray for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

Keller Dover

Denis Villeneuve may be my favourite currently working director off the back of his exceptional three-year run with the wildly different Sicario, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. In his earlier Prisoners he explores the world of cerebral urban crime that David Fincher gravitates toward. Cinematic and storytelling tropes mean that crime thrillers typically underwhelm in their third act, either through the obviousness of their conclusion or a sense that they have cheated. Prisoners is a rare exception that carefully ties together the disparate clues scattered during its slow burn build up, but it succeeds moreso because of the wider themes it explores around desperation and retribution. Its subject matter makes for challenging viewing with child abduction, murder and torture (although the film is notably restrained in what it depicts on-screen). All of the lead performances are captivating, but Jackman’s emotional energy is film’s seething undercurrent as a father who will do anything to find his daughter — yet, unlike the focused vengeance of Liam Neeson in Taken, here his actions are bred from desperation and the audience is forced to question rather than simply being brought along for the ride. Unashamedly an adult experience, Prisoners is exhausting but rewarding.

8/10