What makes this thriller extraordinary is its willingness to make us scratch our heads and ask questions as the tense, fable-like story patiently unfolds. This creates an almost unbearably involving vibe, from the slow-burn pacing to the unusual character detail. And all of this allows the cast members to dig deep inside their characters.
It starts as two families in rural Pennsylvania get together to celebrate Thanksgiving, then discover that their two young daughters are missing. Keller and Grace Dover (Jackman and Bello) and Franklin and Nancy Birch (Howard and Davis) search the neighbourhood frantically, then try to help local detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) with his investigation. He settles on an oddball (Dano) who seems unable to provide any information at all. With no evidence against him, he's released. But Keller can't bear to think of this man being free while the girls are missing, so he hatches his own plan to sort things out.
There's a lot of symbolism in this screenplay, as everyone reacts to the situation in his or her own way (clearly echoing the world's response to the War on Terror). But it's also a riveting personal story of the desperate need for justice and revenge. Jackman is terrific as the deeply religious man whose love of guns informs his decision-making. He impulsively reacts like Liam Neeson in Taken, charging to the rescue. By contrast, Gyllenhaal's Loki is more measured and observant, while Howard's Franklin struggles with his own moral decisions. The women are a completely different story, and equally provocative: Davis is feisty but helpless, while Bello crawls into her shell.
All of the performances are pungent, continually forcing us to explore our own reactions to things that happen to us. And the side characters played by Dano and Leo (as his aunt) are just as unnervingly resonant. All of this is stunningly well shot by ace cinematographer Roger Deakins to capture that point in the year when rain shifts to snow. And director Villeneuve refuses to rush, gripping us tightly as he quietly reveals telling details while cranking the tension to unbearable levels over two and a half hours.
Run time: 153 mins
In Theaters: Friday 20th September 2013
Box Office USA: $61.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $118.4M
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Production compaines: Madhouse Entertainment, Alcon Entertainment, 8:38 Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Fresh: 183 Rotten: 40
IMDB: 8.1 / 10
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Producer: Kira Davis, Broderick Johnson, Adam Kolbrenner, Andrew A. Kosove
Screenwriter: Aaron Guzikowski
Starring: Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover, Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki, Paul Dano as Alex Jones, Maria Bello as Grace Dover, Melissa Leo as Holly Jones, Viola Davis as Nancy Birch, Terrence Howard as Franklin Birch, Dylan Minnette as Ralph Dover, Zoë Borde as Eliza Birch, Wayne Duvall as Captain Richard O'Malley, David Dastmalchian as Bob Taylor, Len Cariou as Father Patrick Dunn, Sandra Ellis Lafferty as Mrs. Milland
Also starring: Broderick Johnson
Like an antidote to vacuous blockbusters, this intelligent, thoughtful drama packs more intensity into a...
This biopic gallops through the career of groundbreaking gangsta rappers N.W.A, working its way through...
Basically the perfect summer movie, this lightweight drama has a great-looking cast and plenty of...
As the ghoul from the 2012 horror hit stalks a new family, this sequel's sharply...
After setting the scene with vivid characters and some insightful interaction, the plot of this...
Both the characters and the tone have been updated as a new generation of Grizwolds...
Amy Schumer makes her big screen debut with a script that feels like a much-extended...
Adopting a deliciously groovy vibe, Guy Ritchie turns the iconic 1960s TV spy series into...