Hugh Jackman stars in "Prisoners," a new thriller about a man whose young daughter is abducted. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following report for NY1.
The new movie "Prisoners" is rooted in 40 years of Hollywood vigilante films, yet it also breaks audacious new ground.
Hugh Jackman stars as Keller Dover, a brawny survivalist who is also a gentle-voiced suburban dad. On a rainy Thanksgiving afternoon, Keller brings his wife and kids over to the home of neighborhood friends, played by Terrence Howard and Viola Davis. The two families eat, drink and joke around, and nothing too remarkable happens, until everyone realizes that Keller's little daughter has left the house and disappeared, along with the other family's daughter.
A search turns up nothing, but later that night, the police find a pale, mostly mute young creep, played by Paul Dano, hanging around in his scuzzy RV camper. They arrest him, interrogate him and find no evidence, so they let him go. But Keller is convinced that he's guilty, so he takes action. He kidnaps the creep, brings him to an abandoned apartment building and beats him to a bloody pulp, over and over again. He threatens to kill the young man unless he confesses.
If the Dano character is, in fact, innocent, then what Keller is doing is an unholy atrocity. But what if he's guilty? Are Keller's one-man torture-squad tactics justified then? And if not, what should Keller do, given that every bone in his body is telling him that this is the only way he'll ever see his daughter again? What if every bone in his body is right?
Jackman, in a staggering performance that's unlike anything he has done before, acts with an unbridled rage and invests every rasp of that anger with meaning. Haunted by what might be happening to his daughter, he has, at least in his own mind, transcended the law, yet that leaves him with nothing to believe in but himself, and Jackman takes us on every step of that brave, terrible journey.
Prisoners is very much a post-Zero Dark Thirty movie. Keller's remorseless treatment of his suspect echoes America's treatment of its captives after the September 11th attacks. There are a great many twists and turns to come, yet at the heart of Prisoners is something primitive and elemental and gripping, an obsession with torture, morality and the impotence of the justice system that speaks to our time as intensely as the vigilante thrillers of the '70s once spoke to theirs.