Will ‘Prisoners’ capture attention of Oscar voters?

The crime drama “Prisoners” did boffo business last weekend, grossing $22 million domestically. Add in rave reviews from the likes of A.O. Scott (New York Times) and Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly) and this Warner’s release — which came in third for the audience award at the recent Toronto filmfest behind “12 Years a Slave” and “Philomena” — is looking like a stronger Oscar contender than originally expected. 

The nailbiter stars Oscar nominees Hugh Jackman as Terrence Howard as fathers divided over the lengths they will go to find their missing daughters. Their wives — played by Maria Bello and Oscar nominee Viola Davis respectively — are torn as to what is required, especially after the police detective (Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal) is stonewalled by the prime suspect (Paul Dano) and his overly protective aunt (Oscar champ Melissa Leo). 

On paper, this seemed like just a popcorn picture with Jackman’s character turning violent vigilante but the reviews made clear that the film is much more than that. They lauded the deft helming by French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve who contended for Foreign-Language film in 2009 with “Incendies.” And critics praised the twists and turns of Aaron Guzikowski‘s original script and the atmospheric lensing by 10-time Oscar nominee Roger Deakins.

Among the cast, which received plaudits across the board, Jackman and Gyllenhaal were singled out for their lead and supporting performances. Both of these matinee idols play against type. Jackman has a haunted look throughout as his character grows frantic in the search for his daughter while Gyllenhaal sports tatoos and an unflattering hairstyle. 

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