Could 'Prisoners' Be The Surprise Toronto Film Festival Success?

Tags: Hugh Jackman - Jake Gyllenhaal - Paul Dano

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Prisoners has premiered at this year's Toronto International Film Festival and has received the kind of Oscar talk that propelled Slumdog Millionaire, Argo, The Artist and Hurt Locker towards the year's 'best film' award.

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The plot follows Keller Dover, a hulking carpenter played by Hugh Jackman, whose daughter goes missing on an overcast Pennsylvanian Thanksgiving along with the neighbour's daughter too. The local loner Alex Jones (Paul Dano) immediately falls under suspicion after his Winnebago is seen at the scene of the disappearance. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the lead detective, Loki, investigating the disappearance case who looks for solid evidence to convince Jones but fails to pin any conclusive evidence on the neighbourhood's most mysterious character.

Watch The Prisoners Trailer:

Loki's calm pursuit of the case leads to frustration from the parents of the missing girls and Dover decides he'll take matters into his own hands, including the hunt and punishment of who he believes is the guilty party. It is the actors' performances in Prisoners that provides a strong foundation upon which a twisting, dark thriller can be built. With "beautifully calibrated performances," suspects are offered up to the audience as even our allegiance to embattled father Dover begins to fall under question.

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The Guardian's Paul MacInnes is especially praising in his review, describing the "powerful ensemble cast" led by Les Misérables actor Jackman, the "consistent feeling of dread at the pit of the stomach" brought about by the plot's twists and drops, as well the wider picture depicted by director Denis Villeneuve showing an "engrossing study of a smalltown America battered by recession, fear and the unrelenting elements."

TIME's Richard Corliss admires the way the genre has been progressed by the Aaron Guzikowski-written movie: "It pushes familiarly grisly serial-killer tropes in a couple of novel directions; if you anticipate the film's ending, you're way ahead of us." However, Corliss criticises Villeneuve's sometimes "pretentious" directing and the excessive length of the 2hrs40mins movie.

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Variety compliment the "spellbinding, sensationally effective thriller" that Villeneuve has brought to life, after Guzikowski's "brilliant" and "effortlessly flowing" script lay famously unproduced for years. Praising the "flawless" scene-setting, Scott Foundas remarks that Prisoners represents "Villeneuve working on his biggest and most ambitious canvas to date," adding simply "Jackman has[...]never been better."

The underlying, pervasive sense of dread throughout the entirety of Prisoners is fostered by bleak, weather-battered backdrop of stained clapboard houses, overgrown vegetation and a muddy palette, portraying a town devoid of hope and full of suspicion.

Critics repeatedly indicate Villeneuve's 2010 Incendies, that received an Oscar nomination but missed out on the gong. There's plenty of buzz around his latest Prisoners: could this be the French Canadian director's turn at the Academy Awards? With a final screening at TIFF this Friday (13th September), Prisoners will be released on 20th September in the USA and on 27th September in the UK.


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