Directed By: Denis Villeneuve
Written By: Aaron Guzikowski
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Terrence Howard, and Viola Davis
Synopsis: A Boston man kidnaps the person he suspects is behind the disappearance of his young daughter and her best friend.
Why it could succeed:
I have to be honest; I had a hard time coming up with a valid enough reason to make this film sound like it could succeed as an awards player. It definitely has a lot of potential to be an entertaining film at the least – a great cast with an up and coming director (Villeneuve directed the 2010 film Incendies, which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film) – but the plot doesn’t sound like the type of thing AMPAS will go for in the Best Picture field. Ron Howard’s Ransom (1996) instantly comes to mind whenever a film about kidnapping is made, and that film’s fate with Oscar resulted in a shutout. So going on gut feeling alone (without a trailer or any early word on the film), the best I would currently speculate the film doing as an award contender would perhaps be in the acting field. I’m sure there will be a lot of material for Jackman to work with (he plays the father of one of the girls who has disappeared), and last year’s recognition for Les Mis might keep him fresh on the voters minds.
Why it might not:
I tried not to cover most of this in the why it could succeed section, but I couldn’t stop myself. So I’ll dig a little bit deeper than just the plot synopsis to explain why I feel that (on the surface) this might not be the type of film to make rounds during the awards season. The film’s best shot at succeeding seems to lie with its cast and director; however its scribe might be the biggest question mark. This is only the second film penned by Aaron Guzikowski, with his only other effort being the crime/thriller Contraband (2012), starring Mark Wahlberg. Everyone starts somewhere, of course, so that’s not to say the guy couldn’t write the next Citizen Kane. But if we’re going to do this, we have to consider the “what have you done?” as well as the “what have you done for me lately?” And there isn’t much available to answer to either of those questions with. Another warning sign that this might not be such an award contender is the September 20th release date. Aside from The Master, September was a pretty barren month for feature films that went on to receive recognition from Oscar (End of Watch, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Looper, and Arbitrage all had hope, but were completely shut out by AMPAS). Have a look here to see what I mean. The final worry I would have for the film would be that it is being distributed by Warner Brothers, who will have a lot on their plate that might leave Prisoners in their rear-view mirror if it doesn’t do exceptionally well right out of the gate (Warner Brothers has The Great Gatsby, Man of Steel, Gravity, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, to name a few).
From this far out, I’m hopeful for a quality film, but I do not expect a contender. Prisoners feels like it could be this year’s The Next Three Days (2010), with long-shot potential for:
Lead Actor (Jackman)
Supporting Actor (Gyllenhaal, Dano)
Supporting Actress (Davis)