Films I Enjoy

I deeply enjoy watching films, especially the ones recommended on goodmoviesbox. I gravitate towards genres that are more gritty and serious.

Here, in this tiny corner of the internet of mine, I’d like to share some of the films I’ve enjoyed and try to articulate why they stood out to me. All being said, spoilers ahead so beware.

Prisoners
2013 · Crime mystery
  • Director
    Denis Villenue
  • Cinematographer
    Roger Deakens
Written on Apr 14, 2022

I’ll begin my entries with Denis Villeneuve’s 2013 crime mystery Prisoners, as it continues to be a film that captures my mind with its haunting cinematography, executed by the incredible Roger Deakins, and the unforgettable performance by Jake Gyllenhaal.

The backdrop of the film is the grey and weathered suburban landscape of Boston, a place that is constantly shrouded in cloud, snow, and oppressive rain. From the start of the film, even during a jolly occasion of Thanksgiving, we the audience are greeted by a harshness of ice and dew. We can almost smell the wet tree barks and rotting wood frames the moment the film starts.

Villeneuve expertly uses this world to stage Prisoner’s dreadful premise: a father looking for his kidnapped daughter. Keller Dover, powerfully portrayed by Hugh Jackman, rabidly employs every means within his rugged hands to find his daughter, from violently knocking on neighbor’s doors to savagely beating Alex Jones, a primary suspect, to the point in which Jones is no longer recognizable due to how bloodied and swollen his face. The dreadful sequences are beautifully visualized by Deakin’s cinematography, and the expert yet measured use of light. Deakins puts the character as well as the audience constantly in the dark, as the mystery continues to unfold and we see our protagonists struggle through hope and despair. One of my favorite scenes is towards the climax of the film, where we see Detective Loki, played by Gyllenhaal, standing in the rickety home of Holly Jones, the serial kidnapper and child murderer. The shot frames Loki in the the center, where Loki is bathed by an old, yellow, and mildewed light. We feel a strange sense of unease. The old home feels more like a tomb rather than a place of living.

This highlights Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Loki. A tested detective with a troubled childhood, Loki’s power comes from the reticence that Gyllenhaal helped craft with Villeneuve. From his quiet and measured voice to the PTSD-like eye twitches, we can feel the trauma bubbling to the surface, giving the detective the raw instincts to survive this gritty world Villeneuve has crafted. One example of the precision of Gyllenhaal is the way Loki unholsters his pistol. Every time we see Loki draw his weapon, the slow yet tense motion allows the audience to experience the dread and tension Loki is feeling. We feel the fear the detective is feeling, and the thought that the only thing that will keep our protagonist out of danger lies solely in this piece of instrument.

These elements combine to an incredible climax. Even at the moment when Loki solves the mystery and realizes that Holly Jones was the kidnapper all along, the audience gets no sense of relief. In fact, Jones was not even arrested or questioned. Her motives never become truly clear, nor the history that led to to become the monster she is. From all the hopelessness, all the twists and turns, and all the turmoil Dover and Loki go through, we are paid off by a single and powerful moment when Loki, weapons drawn and trained on his target, orders in a dangerous voice: “Don’t move and show me your fucking hands.”

Villeneuve’s Prisoners was a dark and haunting experience, with a plot that is frustratingly long and unpredictable. At times, it felt like the film’s maze-like twists and turns was too much to bear. However, the cinematography and the precision in Gyllenhaal’s performance made the film something I come back to over and over again. It was a wonderful introduction to Villeneuve’s power as a direct, and I can’t wait for more.