Rated: R for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout. Reviewed by: Nina Release date: September 20, 2013 Released by: Warner Brothers
Most of us watch movies for entertainment value and rarely watch to see what it can teach us. In this movie, I learned there is more than one definition of the word "prisoner" – you can be a prisoner to your actions, your thoughts and the motivations of others – often without the power or strength to change it.
Emotional and thought provoking, this film explores what happens to a family and community when two young girls disappear without a trace. Although they are loved and protected by their families, moms and dads all strongly portrayed by Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello, Terrance Howard and Viola Davis, these girls become lost to them seemingly in a blink of an eye. These family units are immediately tested when the most logical villain and vehicle is right in front of them, a troubled young man driving an RV. He turns out to have his own story in this, becomes lost himself when he panics and runs from the police, moving him into the most logical suspect role.
When the police don't take the action the family thinks they should, the alpha male role is picked up by Jackman, forceful and almost overpowering in his tone and carriage, steamrolling over everyone in his drive to resolve the situation. He has his ideas about what happen and is relentless in voice and words, thinly veiled with religious overtones, listening to religious tapes in his car, and hits the gas towards the resolution. It is complex in a way that makes you consider and reconsider at every twist and turn. The choices and decisions that are made and pursued, the actions accepted and ignored, the coping and denial of each member of this intricate puzzle. The pieces come together methodically but have clarity when you realize everyone is a prisoner to their fears, their joys, their commitments, their beliefs, their convictions of how they think their lives should go but also to the actions of others.
All these characters give strong performances and all the components to this movie have worth and substance, each part absolutely belongs in this movie, you don't come away feeling that anything was wasted. You don't believe for a minute that these people don't believe for one minute they are doing the wrong thing, even when one family agrees not to help the other but also agrees not to stop them when they seem to be taking an action that can only lead to sadness. There is a cruelty there that is sharp, poignant, necessary and devastating.
Jake Gyllenhaal gives the strongest performance I've seen in a long while, focused and driven, not giving into any demons, calmly working toward the resolution of the disappearance. Even his outburst produces an unforeseen result opening his mind to accept clues and leading him in the right direction to a favorable outcome.
This movie leaves you realizing you may have just seen an Oscar worthy performance and wishing you knew how to cast a vote! The end of the movie leaves you guessing but also with a strong belief that you know how it will end because you've made up your own mind. Don't worry about the length of the movie, you will not move 1 inch from your seat, you might not even want to eat because all of your energy will concentrated on the screen – you won't be able to take your eyes away.