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

Dead Man Down (2013)

US / 118 minutes / color / FilmDistrict, IM Global, WWE Studios, Original, Frequency Dir: Niels Arden Oplev Pr: Neal Moritz, J.H. Wyman Scr: J.H. Wyman Cine: Paul Cameron Cast: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard, Dominic Cooper, Isabelle Huppert, Luis Da Silva Jr., Wade Barrett, Franky G., Declan Mulvey, John Cenatiempo, Roy James Wilson Jr., Myles Humphus, Stephen Hill, Aaron Vexler, James Biberi, F. Murray Abraham, Andrew Stewart-Jones, Beata Alexandra Dalton, Accalia Quintana, Saul Stein, Armand Assante, Robert Vataj.

Two years ago, on June 17, Delphine (Quintana), the little daughter of Hungarian immigrants Anka (Dalton) and Laszlo Kerick (Farrell), was killed by a stray bullet as the thugs of racketeer landlord Alphonse Hoyt (Howard) attempted to clear the tower block in which they lived. Anka and Laszlo were determined to help the DA bring the hoodlums to justice, but Alphonse hired an Albanian gang led by Ilir Brozi (Biberi) to murder them. Ilir’s mob succeeded in killing Anka and, they thought, Laszlo; but in fact Laszlo survived.

Now, having taken the name Victor, Laszlo has, with the aid of Anka’s uncle, Gregor (Abraham), succeeded in infiltrating Alphonse’s crew. (As Sam Juliano has pointed out, Victor Laszlo is the name of Paul Henreid’ character in CASABLANCA [1942].) He’s secretly playing a cat-and-mouse game with Alphonse, sending him photographs of Alphonse’s hoods with their eyes crossed out, plus small cut squares from another photograph with the obvious implication that, jigsaw-pieced together, these will reveal the identity of Alphonse’s tormentor and the reason for the torment. Alphonse sets his henchman Paul (Vexler) to trying to find out who’s behind the unsettling campaign. Paul deduces the guilty party is Victor and confronts him in the latter’s apartment but, before he can tell anyone else, Victor strangles him.

Dead Man Down 2013 - Beatrice explains her deal to Victor

Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) explains her deal to Victor.

Unknown to Victor, this crime was witnessed by Beatrice Louzon (Rapace), who lives with her mother Valentine (Huppert) in the Continue reading

Company You Keep, The (2013)

US / 122 minutes / color (with brief bw in the form of archive and faux-archive footage) / Voltage, Wildwood, Brightlight, Kingsgate, TCYK, Sony Dir: Robert Redford Pr: Nicolas Chartier, Robert Redford, Bill Holderman Scr: Lem Dobbs Story: The Company You Keep (2003) by Neil Gordon Cine: Adriano Goldman Cast: Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Terrence Howard, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Brendan Gleeson, Brit Marling, Sam Elliott, Stephen Root, Jacqueline Evancho, Gabrielle Rose.

Decades ago, during the horrific height of the Vietnam War, the Weathermen, or Weather Underground, were at the cutting edge of domestic protest against it; they were classified by the authorities as terrorists, although later judgement of their activities tends to be kinder. According to the backstory of this movie, one of their crimes was a bank robbery in which a security guard was shot dead; the perpetrators have been on the run ever since.

The movie starts with the arrest by the FBI of one of those perpetrators, Sharon Solarz (Sarandon), now the respected pillar-of-the-community mother of teenage kids; she has in fact been on her way to NYC to give herself up, but the FBI, having caught wind of this through wiretaps, decided to seek kudos by pre-empting her. Her friend from the old radical days, Billy Cusimano (Root), tries to enlist public-spirited lawyer Jim Grant (Redford) for her defense, but he declines, pleading that, recently widowed, he has to focus on rearing his 11-year-old daughter, Isobel “Izzy” (Evancho).

Izzy (Jacqueline Evancho) and her Uncle Daniel (Chris Cooper) confronted by the FBI.

Into the picture stumbles brattish local journalist Ben Shepard (LaBeouf) of the Albany Sun–Times, eager to make a name for himself. He manages to dig out evidence that “Jim Grant” is in fact Nick Sloan, wanted by the FBI as Continue reading