Prisoners Blu-ray Review

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Hauntingly brutal thriller with superb performances

by Casimir Harlow Jan 30, 2014 at 11:37 AM

  • Movies review


    Prisoners Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £19.99

    Prisoners Blu-ray Review

    What would you do to protect your child? If the police couldn’t – or wouldn’t – touch the person who you know kidnapped your child? How far would you be prepared to go to make him talk? Prisoners takes you to this morally ambiguous place.

    It’s a bleak and unforgiving movie which definitely succeeds in what it sets out to do – get right under your skin. It’s honest, at times painfully realistic, and plays relentlessly with your emotions. Almost every character is flawed, and almost every suspect is painted ambiguously – there are no clear-cut heroes and villains here, just one big grey area. The dreary setting only matches the mood. Nobody wants to get lost in these woods. With atmosphere and content locked-and-loaded, Prisoners is primed to take you on a torturous psychological journey, impressively building up the tension, and – even more impressively – maintaining that horrible moral grey area for almost the entire duration, even if the final twists simultaneously stretch credulity and risk predictability.
    There are no such hesitations about the performances of the cast, however. They are, in their entirety, excellent. Hugh Jackman is a far cry from Wolverine here; despite the supposedly righteous end, his means are veritably hard to justify. One person you’ll get behind from start to finish is Jake Gyllenhaal’s dogged Detective. It’s perhaps my favourite performance from Gyllenhaal, bringing us a twitching, blinking, tattoed, beleaguered veteran who is far from the kind of super-cop that is called for in most of these kinds of mysteries. He doesn’t wantonly flaunt the rules, but he also behaves very naturally and convincingly throughout – particularly when he’s confronted with some positively evil scumbags. He’s tortured by the family’s loss, and visibly wears the burden of the case in every scene.

    Prisoners may not quite be a masterpiece but it’s still an undeniably unsettling thriller which ranks as one of the best of last year.

    Prisoners Blu-ray Picture Quality

    Prisoners Prisoners Blu-ray Picture Quality
    Prisoners hits Region B-locked UK Blu-ray complete with a decent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation which makes the most of the stunning cinematography, but is occasionally overwhelmed by the dingy, murky gloom which pervades the piece. Detail is excellent, bringing the atmospheric environment to life in every aspect, and shining a spotlight on every nook and cranny, every pore and follicle, as a grizzled, bearded Jackman and an anaemic, tattooed and tic-inflicted Gyllenhaal are observed in all their glory. All this without any sign of overt softness, invasive edge enhancement or unruly DNR application.

    Perhaps this drab grey-dominated look is utterly intentional but it pulls the presentation down from being outright stunning, remaining generally very good instead.

    The colour scheme is obviously limited by the setting, bathed in rain and engulfed in cloud, but the palette is natural and still rather beautiful at times, with the skin tones appearing healthy – or suitably bloodless under the extreme stress of the situation – and the landscapes utterly stunning. Black levels are where everything starts to falter though, only slightly, but enough to pull this down from being a demo disc, with blacks often appearing murkier than you would ideally like, although perhaps that only reflects the tone of the material further.

    Prisoners Blu-ray Sound Quality

    Prisoners Prisoners Blu-ray Sound Quality
    Presented in the now-near-universal DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 format, the track is rather understated, which doesn’t instantly smack of demo territory, but it is also surprisingly intoxicating, providing an engulfing, omnipresent ambience which occasionally strikes with unnerving tones during the more tense moments. Surrounds are used well, with the frontal array dominating the mix, but dynamics providing excellent coverage.

    The accompanying audio track is broody and moody and wonderfully atmospheric, whilst displaying a stunning degree of precision at every turn.

    Dialogue is clear and coherent throughout, again almost exclusively emanating from across the fronts and centre channels. The LFE input is infrequent but perfectly placed, to lend weight and potency to those more unnerving touches. Overall this is an excellent track, nudging into demo territory even if it is unlikely to be actually used for those purposes.

    Prisoners Blu-ray Extras

    Just the same two woefully inadequate Featurettes that the US release 'boasted'.

    Is Prisoners Blu-ray Worth Buying

    Prisoners Is Prisoners Blu-ray Worth Buying
    If you can stomach being held prisoner in a moral quagmire for two-and-a-half hours, then you could do far worse than check out the occasionally impressive, unabashedly invasive and remorselessly haunting Prisoners. Brimming with wall-to-wall excellent performances, and held together by skilled direction, the frequently disturbing drama falters towards the end of its overlong runtime, but still delivers a suitably ambiguous dish, drenched in a dark ambience and founded upon an unsettling and unforgiving premise. It’s not an easy watch, but it is a very good one.

    The suitably impressive UK Blu-ray release boasts decent video and excellent audio but a poor set of extras although that shouldn’t stop you picking this up immediately. Recommended.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99

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