TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL: ‘Prisoners’ Surprise Screening Stuns Audiences


Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners is one film that debuted at the Telluride Film Festival that we actually won’t have to wait long to see. The film, starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano, centers around the abduction of two children and what ends a parent will go to in order to find them. Prisoners will be seen at Toronto next week, and then opens in theaters on September 20.

Here are some of the early reactions out of the festival:

Stephen Farber at The Hollywood Reporter:

Villeneuve enlisted brilliant cinematographer Roger Deakins, who captures the rainy, chilly atmosphere of this Pennsylvania community with visual eloquence. (Pennsylvania was convincingly recreated outside Atlanta.)  The editing by Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach, two editors of many of Clint Eastwood’s recent movies, is also first-rate. Although the film runs two and a half hours, there doesn’t seem to be a wasted frame. The performances also enrich the film. Jackman gives what may be the most intense and satisfying performance of his career.

Pete Hammond at Deadline:

The applause was strong and early critical praise is over the moon. Pundits will have to add this Alcon production being released by Warner Bros on September 20th to the list of strong Oscar contenders this year. That is, if  audiences and academy members can handle the intensity of this superbly directed and produced film that features career best performances, for sure, from Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman (okay, I liked Les Miztoo a lot), plus a brilliant supporting cast including Melissa Leo going for another supporting win, Terence Howard, the great Viola Davis, Maria Bello and Paul Dano who goes through the ringer for his art.

Tim Appelo at The Hollywood Reporter:

The thriller, which breaks the rules of genre by focusing on character and the degrading effects of violence on people’s souls, played well. Even viewers who could not stand its violence agreed afterwards that it was a stunning, overpowering film.

Kris Tapley at In Contention:

The ensemble is great across the board but Hugh Jackman gives what honestly might be his best performance as one of the desperate fathers willing to do whatever it takes to find his daughter. Jake Gyllenhaal is also perfectly utilized, carving out a law enforcement character caught between the robotics of the job and the emotion of the case. And also worth noting is Terrence Howard as the other father; he doesn’t get a whole lot to do here, but he makes it all count and, along with his work in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” seems to be back on the right track.

I don’t quite know if this shakes out as an awards movie, though, and it’s not like it has to. Jackman certainly deserves to be in the Best Actor conversation but it’s impossibly competitive. The film editing and cinematography both deserve consideration, too, but I can’t be sure. If it takes off (the Telluride crowd here was riveted), then there could be wiggle room.

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What do you think?

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Written by Mark Johnson

Lover of all things film and Oscar. Fantasy sports’ equivalent of George Steinbrenner. Your very own Han Solo, making friends all over the movie-loving galaxy in spite of himself. When he’s not ranking just about everything or dominating boardgames, Mark is breaking down the Oscar race 24/7 with Rain Man-like stats and knowledge. In his downtime, you can find him commiserating with other Northeast Ohio sports fans because a hero isn’t complete without a little heartbreak. If Game of Thrones, Lost, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Survivor are your style, then congratulations, you have something in common with this inglourious basterd.


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