Hitchcockian thriller ‘Prisoners’ calls for multiple viewings

Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman star in "Prisoners."

Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman star in “Prisoners.”

Prisoners/2013/Warner Bros./153 min.

Tense and absorbing, “Prisoners” ranks as a solid three-star flick. When two 6-year-old girls go missing, one of the fathers – a carpenter and hunter named Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) – quickly reveals himself to be a brutal vigilante, intent on beating information out of a mentally disabled man brought in for questioning and then released (Paul Dano).

Jake Gyllenhaal, as the obsessive cop assigned to the case, pursues another suspect and eventually Jackman chases yet another – all of the suspects, we learn, share a shattering connection. Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello and Melissa Leo round out the cast. Aaron Guzikowski wrote the screenplay.

Québec-born director Denis Villeneuve thoughtfully tells a complex, Hitchcockian tale and elicits memorable performances from the cast, especially from Gyllenhaal (perhaps his best work since “Zodiac.”)

On the downside, there are some rather drafty plot holes, the pacing is slightly off and, while Jackman is very watchable, the script’s characterization of Keller Dover proves more facile than fascinating. Still, it’s engrossing enough that you might feel like watching it twice to catch all the clues. And the ending is superb.

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Honey, your December noir horoscope is here …

Brad Pitt turns 49 on Dec. 18.

Fate reigns supreme in film noir, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love us some zodiac fun. Hope your December is full of expensive champagne, exquisite gifts and elegant entrances to parties. And happy birthday, Sagittarius and Capricorn! A special shout-out to Sag stars Julianne Moore (Dec. 3), Kim Basinger (Dec. 8), Brad Pitt (Dec. 18) Julie Delpy (Dec. 21) and Vanessa Paradis (Dec. 22); and super-sexy Caps, the late Ava Gardner (Dec. 24), Sienna Miller (Dec. 28) and Marianne Faithfull (Dec. 29).

Sagittarius (November 23-December 22): Possibility abounds now and in the New Year. Don’t concern yourself with what’s realistic, feasible or practical. There will be plenty of time for thorough scrutiny later on but, at this juncture, dream big and think boldly. It will come together one piece at a time. On the romantic front, you may be tempted by a coy boy; enjoy the dalliance without rushing into anything. If attached, celebrate your passion, hell, get creative. The holiday-party circuit will keep you extra busy and may open new doors.

Capricorn (December 23-January 20): As usual, hard work often pays off for Capricorns. Diligent portion control followed by triumphant shopping these last few weeks has been well worth the effort. You are being noticed even more than usual so try to be fair and carve out a little time for the slew of people wanting to socialize. That said, it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. Remember that mid-month when you feel bound to do something simply because of a crossed conversational wire. A brilliant idea occurs to you around the 8th.

Aquarius (January 21-February 19): Why does everyone say “high maintenance” like it’s a bad thing? Striving for perfection has its place. Don’t lower your lofty standards but remember to cut yourself and others some slack now and then. You rarely act on a whim (except when shoes, jeans, boots, sweaters, purses, scarves, bracelets, fur vests, little black dresses and anything from Anne Fontaine are involved) preferring instead to do your homework and make informed decisions. By-the-book types with no imagination may envy your visionary approach to enjoying life. Let them.

Sienna Miller will be 31 on Dec. 28.

Pisces (February 20-March 20): There is a French proverb that says, “Fortune is a woman; if you neglect her today, do not expect to regain her tomorrow.” In other words, find time to nurture your nest egg, even if it feels like a chore. Toward the end of the month, you may receive a flurry of compliments so when someone tells you for 697th time that you’re amazing, do try not to yawn. The 21st is a great day to be spontaneous.

Aries (March 21-April 20): Appreciate life’s simple pleasures – a flawless manicure, a dress on sale, an alibi that sticks. Make the most of every day and treat yourself to something fabulous for a holiday party. And consider hosting a vintage cocktail party yourself. True, it would be nice to dust a bit and polish the silver but, let’s face it, you’ll enjoy the party even more if you prepare by sleeping in late, having breakfast in bed and getting a massage and a pedicure.

Taurus (April 21-May 21): According to Vogue’s Book of Etiquette, 1948, which provides advice on tipping cigarette girls in nightclubs (10-15 cents), traveling in a Pullman car, and saying good evening at a dance, the word escort “should not be used instead of “The man I was dining with” or, “The man who had taken me to the theater.” While this little tidbit will more than likely land in your mental file on useless information, try this month to resist putting labels on any budding relationships. Keep things a bit mysterious and you will be rewarded by magic. Stand your ground on the 30th. [Read more...]

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