This was the very first movie I watched in 2014 and I’d say it was a great way to start off the year. I went into this knowing very little about it. Not even seeing the preview. I heard it was really innovative and shocking with a lot of great twists, so I didn’t want to read anything about it that may spoil it. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else but I do have a few things to say about this great film and I will try to talk about it as generally as possible.
The basic premise of the film is the struggle of two families dealing with the kidnapping of their young daughters. Hugh Jackman and Terrence Howard play the role of the fathers spectacularly. The only witness in the case is Alex Jones (played by Paul Dano), a strange, skittish individual with the IQ of a 10 year old. His interrogation delivers unconvincing answers, but there is not enough evidence to keep him locked up. I really like Paul Dano. He seems to choose greater roles the more he matures. Every time I see him I think of his eccentric role in There Will Be Blood. I think he has a lot of success in his future and this is another well-done, convincing role for him. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Detective Loki- the cop who has never lost a case and is assigned this difficult task.
The movie branches off at this point, following the different dilemmas that each character is dealing with. Despair is tearing these families apart. It is interesting to see how rising panic and grief affects each of them. Keller’s (Jackman) wife becomes severely depressed and almost useless. Franklin’s (Howard) wife seems cold and withdrawn. And Keller is angry. Very, very angry. So many emotions flow throughout these individuals and it is hard not to imagine yourself in their place. How far would you go to protect your child? And what if it was too late? How would you react and what would you do then? Each person handles it differently, but Keller’s path is the most violent and destructive, to himself and to others.
This is a very character-driven film. Each person is beautifully developed and finds a way to connect to the audience. The only character I wish they expounded on more was Detective Loki. I wasn’t sure what to think about him from the very beginning- being a cop with a motor tic disorder and (what looks like) gang tattoos – all of which remain unexplained. There is a lot of mystery to him but that’s probably why he is one of the most interesting characters in the film. It’s probably one of my favorite roles I have seen Jake Gyllenhaal in.
At 2.5 hours long, this film does not let up. It’s stunning and emotional story is like none I have seen before. So many movies these days are predictable and I tried my hardest to figure out this puzzle. I came up with so many theories along the way to be completely caught off guard and blown away. The stories are woven together seamlessly to create an unforgettable mystery. It’s a story that stays with you, for better or for worse.
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