Did Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal Make a Movie About Guantánamo?

Slate's Culture Blog
May 31 2013 1:19 PM

Did Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal Make a Movie About Guantánamo?

In the bleak new first trailer for the upcoming drama Prisoners, parents played by Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, and Viola Davis lose their daughters in what appears to be a kidnapping. There’s a suspect, played Paul Dano, who’s taken into custody, but the father, played by Jackman, is frustrated when he finds out that the police have no authority to hold onto him more than 48 hours. So he goes beyond the law: When the suspect is released, he illegally detains the man himself, in an effort to save the two daughters.

This, as the title suggests, is all setup, and the rest of the trailer is concerned with what happens when Jackman and co. hold the suspect without trial. “Someone has to make him talk, or they’re going to die,” he says. The other parents don’t approve, but they wash their hands of it: “We’re not going to help kill them, but we won’t stop them either,” declares the mother played by Viola Davis. The wife of Jackman’s character, played by Maria Bello, seems to have driven Jackman to do it, disappointed that he hasn’t fulfilled his primary duty as head of the house: “You told us that you could protect us from everything,” she says. The remainder of the plot summary from Wikipedia gives a sense of where it’s going:

But the further he goes to get the man to confess, the closer he comes to losing his soul.
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This incredibly bleak-looking movie seems to have more on its mind than just its own domestic drama. Canadian director Denis Villeneuve—not your typical director of Hollywood thrillers—is known for mixing the personal and the political in movies like Polytechnique and the Oscar-nominated Incendies (about a mother who becomes a violent radical and a political prisoner). Perhaps it’s a similar element that’s drawn him to this project. And perhaps on some level the Prisoners alluded to in the title aren’t just the suspect and the daughters, but also those detained and interrogated illegally by our own country, in an effort to keep our own sons and daughters safe. If so, that may also partly explain why so many well-known actors—including five Oscar nominees—signed on to a missing-children thriller. We’ll find out September 20.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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