Prisoners


Viewed – 29 September 2018  Netflix

I’d heard good things about this 2013 thriller but had not got around to watching until last night.  Starring two actors I always enjoy, Hugh Jackman and especially Jake Gyllenhaal … this looked like essential viewing from the very moment I’d heard about it.  Telling the story of two suburban families who’s young daughters go missing one day, this follows the ensuing investigation that doesn’t bring many leads, causing Jackman’s father to take the law into his own hands.  He decides to abduct the number one suspect and beat out some answers, whilst at the same time the detective in charge of the case, Gyllenhaal attempts to unravel and mystery.

Prisoners

Directed by the acclaimed Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Blade Runner 2049) this is a taught and hard-hitting with above average performances not only from the leads but also Maria Bello.  Unlike similar missing persons movies this raises questions of what’s right and wrong, although never did I not understand the desperation and pain experienced by the worried parents.  With echoes of movies like (the underrated) Death Sentence and Zodiac, the gradually complex investigation is delivered with no end of tension, twists and turns.  It kept this viewer guessing throughout and even if the final reveal is a little too neat, I was still left satisfied.

It’s a lengthy movie but never slow or stretched out and kept me gripped.  A few questions are left unanswered at the end, with a mystery considering a character’s obsession with mazes left up in the air.  But this was still solid entertainment with atmospheric direction and a stunning turn from Jackman making him one of the best working today.  And to think I came to this for Gyllenhaal who whilst very good is left overshadowed.

Verdict: 4 /5

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Tau


Viewed – 14 July 2018  Netflix

Another Netflix original movie that caught my eye.  This sci-fi thriller is about a girl named Julia, who goes about earning money by pick-pocketing and swiping goods off  people in night clubs then selling them to the local dodgy backstreet dealer for a small cash return.  However, one night she is kidnapped from her apartment, and wakes up strapped to a chair inside an elaborate high-tech house, run by a genius yet unhinged scientist and his advanced A.I.

Tau

Mika Monroe is an actress with the typical Hollywood good looks but often brings a vulnerability to her performances, which worked well in movies like The Guest and especially It Follows.  Here she’s initially all attitude, but delivers a more complex character arc on realising the best way to deal with her situation is to befriend ‘Tau’ the house’s A.I. (voiced recognisably by Gary Oldman).  It’s this relationship that forms the heart of the movie and less the battle of wits between Julia and the scientist, mostly because it doesn’t bring much to the table and that troubled-genius-shtick was done far better in Ex Machina.

The movie has some hit and miss effects, with the robotic security guard pretty well done, but some A.I. drones that look a little naff.  Add to this some alarming jumps in narrative that come out of nowhere towards the end (hand surgery…) and an ending that leaves far too many questions.  Yet I was still impressed how affected I was with the character of Tau to the point of really feeling sorry for it, and yes the movie borrows heavily from better movies but still manages to create an enjoyable 90 minutes regardless.

Verdict:  3 /5

Hounds of Love


Viewed – 01 January 2018  online-rental

I consider abduction / kidnap as one of the most disturbing crimes anyone can do to another person, so sat down to this Australian thriller with a mixture of trepidation and intrigue.  This tells the story of a teenage schoolgirl who falls victim one night to a sexually depraved couple, who abduct and then imprison girls in their suburban house, using them for their sexual needs before discarding them once they’re bored … usually leading to a shallow grave in the woods.

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Inspired by real life crimes of a similar type, this pulls no punches.  It’s shot in a very realistic and voyeuristic style, that makes for very uncomfortable viewing, although I found myself absorbed thanks to strong performances, especially from Ashleigh Cummings as Vicki in a harrowing turn.  Director Ben Young doesn’t linger too much on the more violent or sexual aspects, instead choosing to cut away and leave a lot to the imagination … whilst keeping enough in to hammer home the full extent of the couple’s depravity.  I should also point out the atmospheric score, subtle but well judged to increase the intensity.  The exploration of the couple’s brittle relationship was also well observed, along with how Vicki attempts to drive a wedge between them.

I felt support characters like the boyfriend and father were under-developed and Police are as usual portrayed as incompetent idiots.  It also gets a bit predictable in the final act.  That being said I came away rather affected by this, and therefore give it a firm recommendation.

Verdict:  4 /5

Gone Baby Gone


Viewed – 01 February 2014  Netflix

Taken me a while to review this and it seemed the most interesting choice on Netflix as I was perusing titles suitable for both my mother and father to watch at same time … so anything particularly violent or with sex in it is usually out the window.  This 2007 drama stars Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan as a 30 something couple who are also private investigators.  They get hired by the dysfunctional family of a recently kidnapped girl after the Police fail to produce leads.  Will they manage to find the girl when the authorities could not?

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Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane and Directed by Ben Affleck, who has increasingly made a name for himself as a director with titles like the Oscar-magnet Argo … this I feel is his most assured and meaningful film, with a real-world relevance in reflection to those missing children headlines we hear about.  Co-starring Morgan Freeman as a world-weary Police Chief (isn’t he always?) and Ed Harris as a special agent Casey turns to during his investigation, this has decent performances across the board.  Although taking a while to warm to, Ben’s younger sibling proved a believable and watchable lead and well, I’m a fan of the gorgeous Monaghan who again proves convincing.  It doesn’t gloss over the more harrowing aspects of child abduction neither.  For a movie watched with my parents, the language was stronger than I felt necessary, but that’s my only sticking point.

The story had plenty of twists and turns, keeping me guessing throughout (although I got lost a little) and even when I thought I had it figured out, pretty much guessing one of the bad guys early on … the final morality-punch was a surprise, leaving me thinking ever since.  Well worth checking out.

Verdict:  4 /5