Did the long-delayed ‘Prisoners’ just enter the awards race?

It’s been a long road to the big screen for Aaron Guzikowski’s script “Prisoners,” which landed on the “Black List” of the best unproduced screenplays of the year, back in 2009.

After seeing a slew of leading men (such as Mark Wahlberg and Leonardo DiCaprio) enter and exit its cast over the years, the film finally made its debut at the Telluride Film Festival on Friday to overwhelmingly positive reviews. The response suggests that the 2-1/2 hour thriller about two Pennsylvania families’ search for their missing daughters could be another contender in an awards race that, if you believe the festival hype, will be extra crowded this year.

Starring Hugh Jackman as one of the fathers searching for his daughter, “Prisoners” features a star-studded cast that includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello and Paul Dano.

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The R-rated drama directed by Canadian Denis Villeneuve (“Incendies”) is drawing comparisons to other high-end genre fare such as David Fincher’s “Seven” and Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River” -- rare Hollywood products these days.

According to Variety’s Scott Foudas, the film features “career-best performances” from Jackman and Gyllenhaal, who plays the cop assigned to the case.

The Oscar-nominated Villeneuve is also partnered with Gyllenhaal on the film “Enemies,” which will debut at the Toronto International Festival next week. With “Prisoners,” the director has been praised for his precision, control and ability to create “unrelenting tight tension,” according to Indiewire’s Rodrigo Perez.

The critic adds, “Villeneuve continues to prove his deeply confident footing in modern day cinema, bringing intelligence and muscular and mannered nuance to a somber and extremely tense studio drama that doesn’t deign to ever spell things out.”

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It seems the biggest challenge “Prisoners” will have is luring in audiences interested in seeing “every parent’s nightmare” played out on the big screen in what appears to be an exhausting ride. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film “doesn’t flinch from graphic moments of violence and terror.”

Produced by Alcon Entertainment and scheduled to be released by Warner Bros. on Sept. 20, “Prisoners” will likely need to first succeed at the box office before it can be considered a true player.


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