A veritable murderers row of Oscar-nominees - Hugh Jackman, Mario Bello, Terrance Howard, Viola Davis, Jake Gyllenhaal - plus Oscar-winner Melissa Leo star in the Oscar-baiting, but overlooked Prisoners.
Jackman and Bello are a Pennsylvanian couple who spend Thanksgiving with Howard and Davis. While the family relaxes after dinner, the young daughters of both couples go outside and disappear into thin air. While out walking with their older siblings (both families also have a teenager; son for Jackman, daughter for Howard), a creepy RV was spotted and is immediately suspected of being involved and is promptly spotted and its driver (Paul Dano) apprehended.
However, there is no forensic evidence of the girls inside the and Dano's character has the mental capacity of a 10-year-old. It doesn't seem possible that he was involved, so the police turn him loose over Jackman's objections and when Dano says something to Jackman on the way out, the latter decides to take matters into his own hands, abducting Dano and sequestering him in an abandoned building where he proceeds to cajole him into cooperating and by that I mean brutally beat and torture him to the great angst and consternation of Howard.
While the performances across the board are top-notch - forget his nomination for Les Miz; Jackman should've been nommed for The Fountain - and the cinematography by the ever-a-bridesmaid-never-an-Oscar-winner Roger Deakins (Skyfall, The Shawshank Redemption, 11 Coen Brothers movies!) is beautifully gloomy, there is something airless in the tension that director Denis Villeneuve spreads out over a 2-1/2 hour length which never feels slow as much as moving in place.
With all the time spent, we never really get inside the heads of most of the characters and their motivations. Gyllenhaal's Detective Loki (really, no one thought that post-Avengers that a different name might be appropriate?) has supposedly solved every case he's had, but misses a HUGE detail connecting a seemingly unrelated discovery to his case (that I spotted) until dramatic necessity allows him to connect those dots. A second suspect adds to the mystery, but ultimately matters nada. When all the pieces fall into place, it turns out the picture isn't as compelling as it was when half-assembled.
Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable.