“Prisoners” is either the most exceptional piece of conventional filmmaking in Hollywood or the most conventional piece of exceptional filmmaking.
If that spins your head faster than a Geno Smith scramble, it should.
The movie, which won the box-office crown with a solid $21.4 million this weekend, is, after all, a head-spinning hybrid, combining elements that are rarely combined.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman, the film centers on the father of a kidnapped girl who, when the police are unable to solve the crime, takes matters into his own hands. There are a few ways it defies expectations.
-- It's a genre movie but not a genre movie, following the paces of a vexing mystery even as it asks larger moral and psychological questions.
-- It's directed by Villeneuve, who has made art-house grit such as "Incendies," but it was produced and financed by Alcon Entertainment, which is best known for commercial lightness, like “Dolphin Tale” and “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.”
-- It's released by Warner Bros, but it, like every other studio in town, didn't want to finance it even when the script was hot and every third actor wanted to do it (hence Alcon at a lower budget of about $45 million).
-- It stars a big musical man and superhero purveyor (Jackman) doing some small, un-musical and un-superhero things.
We're in the middle of an era that is requiring, and rewarding, strange bedfellows and unlikely combinations for any film smaller than a $200-million action-adventure. "Prisoners" embodies the trend.
Fittingly for a hybrid, the movie is creating a touch of confusion. The movie generated a B-plus CinemaScore on Friday, only to prompt an A-minus and redo of sorts on Saturday, the first time I can recall a recount has ever happened.
"Prisoners" is a uniquely 21st century creation, an anomaly that's made by an art-house dude looking to go more commercial, and by a commercial producer that doesn’t mind some strong reviews once in awhile. It features big Hollywood stars but who want to do things differently than they’ve been known for doing. And it's a big studio release that was made with chewing gum and duct tape.
It's also a left-field hit, which may be the biggest anomaly of all, and the one that matters most.
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