Tag Archives: hugh jackman

Prisoners (2013)

Prisoners

Not all films are fun, nor should they be. Prisoners is not a fun film, but it’s a good one, and it asks a simple question: how far would you go for your children?

Kelley Dover (Hugh Jackman) is a religious man who loves his family deeply, swearing to always keep them safe and out of harm’s way. However, after a Thanksgiving dinner with neighbor Franklin Birch’s (Terrence Howard) family, Dover’s daughter and Birch’s daughter both go missing, presumably kidnapped. Evidence seems to point to a RV that had been parked in the neighborhood earlier that day, but when Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds and questions the young man driving it, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), he discovers that his low IQ would have made it highly unlikely for him to have orchestrated the kidnapping of two girls. Still convinced that this man is his daughter’s kidnapper, Dover decides to take justice into his own hands, kidnapping Alex and torturing him for information on the whereabouts of his daughter. What lengths will he go to in order to retrieve his missing daughter? And will Detective Loki discover the truth before it’s too late?

This film’s biggest strength is in its lead actors: Hugh Jackman especially plays a compelling character, a man whose morals are deeply rooted in his faith in God, but his love and dedication to his family cause him to make questionable choices. Is it right to kidnap? To torture? What about if your daughter’s life depended on it? That third question is what makes his character so intriguing because he makes us ask it of ourselves as well. Howard’s character is equally as interesting because he has the chance to put Dover’s actions to an end, to tell him that what he’s doing is wrong and should be stopped…but what if what Dover is doing brings his daughter back to him? Both are fathers who possess a strong love for their families, a love so strong that it serves as the driving force behind their actions because what they’re doing may end up protecting the ones they love most. It’s tragic watching desperation carve away at the morals of these two fathers, but it’s almost difficult to hold them at fault because the intent behind their actions. Gyllenhaal’s character is strong as well, with him playing the role of the standard detective; it’s almost as if there are two films going on at the same time – the standard one in which the detective searches for clues to solve the mystery of the missing children and the other in which the fathers of the missing children take matters into their own hands. Switching between these two stories is both thrilling in sobering as more of the truth is uncovered…the truth about the kidnapping and the truth about what lengths a father will go to for his family.

Much of this film is highly atmospheric, with darkness being used often, possibly to convey the darkness enveloping the soul of Jackman’s character. The musical score by Jóhann Jóhannsson adds to this, bringing a level of uneasiness to every scene, though the use of silence here is notable for heightening the tension in a scene as well. The film is disturbing on many levels, almost difficult to watch, but it’s always engrossing, even during the incredibly violent scenes. This level of violence is certainly never tolerable, but you should be glad to know that it is never glorified – it is always seen as wrong, even through the eyes of Jackman’s character, and Howard’s character serves as the visible moral compass.

This film is difficult to watch at times. Its characters are morally questionable. But it’s always absorbing, and, more than asking us whether Kelley Dover has gone too far, it asks us how far we would go. Prisoners is intriguing cinema offering a fascinating look into compelling characters and into ourselves.

-Chad

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

MPAA: R – for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout


Les Misérables (2012)

I enjoy musicals. I have attended several performances of various musicals, and I have also participated in several musicals. That being said, Les Misérables is not a musical that I was familiar with at all aside from the iconic “I Dreamed a Dream” (thank you, Susan Boyle). With all of the positive hype that the movie version was getting, I was prepared to dislike it…not that I wanted to or expected to, but I just embraced the possibility of really not enjoying this film. Thankfully, just the opposite occurred…Les Misérables is one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen.

Based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 French novel, this film tells the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a man who just finished serving 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to provide for his sister and her children. Upon release, the homeless ex-convict seeks shelter at a local church, where he is taken care of by the bishop (played by Colm Wilkinson, the originator of the role of Jean Valjean in the original Broadway production). Despite the bishop’s kindness, Valjean steals silver with the intent of selling it for money, but he’s caught and returned to the church. The bishop, however, tells the authorities that the silver was a gift, even giving Valjean more than he initially stole. It is this act of kindness that turns Valjean’s life around. The rest of the film follows him as he avoids his past and strives to live an honest life and to help others. This is the basis of the story, but there is much more that I’ll leave to you to discover when you watch the film for yourself.

Though Valjean is the main character and Hugh Jackman does a brilliant job with the role, there are other characters of note: Anne Hathaway as Fantine, a woman who struggles to provide for her child, gives an incredible performance and sings a beautiful rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” that will leave you in tears. I was also impressed with Samantha Barks as Éponine, the daughter of two mischievous inn owners (played amusingly by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter), who managed to pull at my heartstrings from the very first moment she appeared on screen. Also worth mentioning are Eddie Redmayne as Marius, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, and Aaron Tveit as Enjolras.

The film as a whole is simultaneously gorgeous and grungy; it switches back and forth between the two when appropriate. The period setting of the film is well-done and quite believable. The most fantastic part of this film, though, is the live singing. In case you weren’t aware, the actors in this film did all of the singing that you hear in the film live on-set…the first film to ever do so, and it’s amazing. As a performer myself, I can attest to the fact that a live performance of a song carries much more raw emotion and feeling than a recording ever could, and it certainly shows in this film. We see everything from the anguish felt by Fantine as she struggles to understand why her life has become so miserable, to the despair that Valjean feels as he considers the possibility of losing Cosette to someone else, to the conflict felt by Javert as he struggles to justify the difference between his morals and his civil responsibility (though, I’ll admit, Crowe’s singing leaves much to be desired). If this film hadn’t been recorded in this way, not even half of the emotion would have been present because only so much can be expressed when lip-syncing.

It was the combination of the emotional live singing and the themes of forgiveness, the love of God, the love of others, and social injustice that made this film so powerful. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this film, despite the fact that it was getting rave reviews from most of my friends, but I walked away extremely satisfied…this may just be my favorite musical film of all time. The direction is fantastic, the acting is spot-on, the cinematography is beautiful, and (most of) the singing is top-notch. Les Misérables has set a new standard for the musical film.

-Chad

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements