By Megan Bianco
As can be seen on “Breaking Bad” and “Dexter,” the anti-hero has been making a big comeback on television during the last decade. But in cinema, the protagonist type has been in a steady, modest league since the 1980s. Usually one main character with a dark past or motive fits the bill in a movie, but in Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s new chilling mystery-thriller Prisoners there are two. Stars Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, both toggle between hero, anti-hero and even villainy throughout the feature.
On Thanksgiving Day, on a quiet suburban street, the Dover family (Jackman, Maria Bello, Dylan Minnette, Erin Gerasimovich) and Birch family (Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Zoe Soul, Kyla Simmons) meet up for a holiday dinner. Soon after eating, the youngest daughters Hannah (Gerasimovich) and Joy (Simmons) go missing. Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) goes to search for the girls and a handful of disturbing suspects.
Paul Dano plays the prime suspect (and eventual victim), while Melissa Leo co-stars as his aunt. Aaron Guzikowski’s screenplay, along with Villeneuve’s polarizing direction, creates a creepy tone throughout. Jackman and Dano deliver most unsettling performances that leave a chill with viewers, but Bello unfortunately seems miscast. Though the film could have used a bit more editing, Gyllenhaal’s sequences are chair-grabbing and will make audiences ponder why he isn’t held in higher esteem as an actor.