Prisoners (2013)

US / 153 minutes / color / Alcon, 8:38, Madhouse, Entertainment, Georgia Film Music & Digital Entertainment Office, Warner Bros. Dir: Denis Villeneuve Pr: Broderick Johnson, Kira Davis, Andrew A. Kosove, Adam Kolbrenner Scr: Aaron Guzikowski Cine: Roger A. Deakins Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Dylan Minnette, Zoë Soul, Erin Gerasimovich, Kyla-Drew Simmons, Wayne Duvall, Len Cariou, David Dastmalchian, Victoria Staley.

A very long, very carefully paced movie, beautifully photographed (his work here brought Deakins one of his several Academy Award nominations), intelligently scripted and with an excellent ensemble performance including a firecracker turn from Gyllenhaal, Prisoners was Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s first English-language movie; it was followed promptly by his second, Enemy (2013), which also starred Gyllenhaal and which I’ve talked about elsewhere on this site.

Keller Dover (Jackman), his wife Grace (Bello) and their kids go for Thanksgiving dinner to the home of their neighbors and best friends, Franklin (Howard) and Nancy Birch (Davis) and their kids. During the afternoon, the two families’ youngest kids, Anna Dover (Gerasimovich) and Joy Birch (Simmons), disobey orders and wander out unsupervised. Within hours a search for them is on.

Hugh Jackman as Keller.

In charge of the case is Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal), a relative newcomer to the area with a celebrated 100% clearup rate. Almost immediately there’s a suspect in custody: Continue reading

Enemy (2013)

Canada, Spain / 91 minutes / color / Pathé, Entertainment One, Telefilm Canada, Instituto de la Cinematografia y de las Artes Audiovisuales, Corus, Televisión Española, Ontario Media Development Corporation, Société de Développement des Enterprises Culturelles Québec, Rhombus, Roxbury, micro_scope, Mecanísmo, Alfa Dir: Denis Villeneuve Pr: Miguel A. Faura, Niv Fichman Scr: Javier Gullón Story: O Homem Duplicado (2002; vt The Double) by José Saramago Cine: Nicolas Bolduc Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini.

A highly enigmatic piece from a director whose noirish credentials are excellent, including offerings like Incendies (2010), Prisoners (2013), Sicario (2015) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017), all of which are likely to be covered here at some point. The enigma in Enemy focuses in part on the role of spiders in the movie’s subtext—apparently the cast and crew had to sign non-disclosure clauses on this matter—but primarily on what’s genuinely happening. Is the story actually one of a man finding his doppelgänger—or, really, his complementary self—or are we witnessing a protracted musing as a rather unpleasant man witnesses the pornographic death of a spider?

That last is the culmination of the movie’s opening sequence, set in some kind of exclusive live-pornography club, where seemingly well heeled men watch acts of sex and sadism. In one of these, an enormous spider is revealed, only to be crushed under the heel of a togaed woman. Witnessing the act is an as yet unidentified man, whom we’ll know with hindsight to be Anthony Claire (Gyllenhaal).

Sarah Gadon as Helen.

Cut now to the humdrum existence of meek-mannered history teacher Adam Bell (Gyllenhaal again). Each day he teaches the same class to seemingly the same students, then rides home on the same bus to have the same bonk with steady girlfriend Mary (Laurent). But a chance watching of a DVD reveals to him he has a physical double in the form of Continue reading