A triumphant thriller packed with enough psychological twists to keep one riveted to the screen; terrific acting imbues director Denis Villeneuve’s taut, beautifully- structured scenario about the abduction of two little girls; always a disturbing, problematic theme. Handled magnificently by excellent writing (Aaron Guzikowski) and actors: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Paul Dano, and Melissa Leo.
The story commences on Thanksgiving day when “Keller and Grace Dover” (Jackman and Bello) and their children “Ralph” and “Anna” join “Franklin and Nancy Birch” and their two children, “Joy” and “Eliza” for a relaxing, happy celebration; they are friends, comfortable and solidly secure in themselves and their relationship. Mayhem ensues when Anna and Joy go missing; an incomprehensible nightmare, and the spiraling effects as the hours take flight.
Hugh Jackman is positively hypnotic as Keller Dover, obsessively controlled, always “hoping for the best, prepared for the worst”; not trusting “Detective Loki” (Jake Gyllenhaal, at his mesmerizing best); his vigilantism becomes more grotesque as the days agonizingly disappear, without results. Maria Bello as “Grace” succumbs to pills, crucifying unrelenting, overwhelming anguish. Terrence Howard and Viola Davis portray the Birch’s; metaphors for the crushing, suffocating realization that their daughter is irrevocably, unjustifiably torn from them, forever.
Paul Dano, as “Alex Jones”, depicting the intellectually -challenged prime suspect, is eerily, creepily sensational, as his tenuous grasp of reality, falters, but never fractures. Melissa Leo, his aunt, “Holly Jones” is pungently powerful as a lugubrious, inscrutable woman, abandoned by her husband.
The core of the film and its remarkable outcome rests with Detective Loki; we meet him, eating alone on Thanksgiving, at a Chinese diner; his reputation is pristine, successfully solving every case; he anchors the blistering, uncontrollable Keller, placates the drug-induced Grace; listens, discerns, navigates the circuitous route to truth from deranged suspects; always a fathomless, twitching enigma; a sensitive symbol of the “prisoner”, lurking, illusive, but prevalent in all individuals.