IN a small Pennsylvanian community, two little girls go for a walk while the Dover family celebrates Thanksgiving at the Birch family’s home.
They don’t return. Director Denis Villeneuve’s detective thriller will take 150 minutes to find them. That is its initial objective. But it isn’t long before Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) flips his lid and begins his own search. Keller is convinced that Alex Jones (Paul Dano) who was driving the RV seen near the Birch house while the families were having their lunch, can tell him where the girls are. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), on the other hand, wants evidence. Alex may be 25 but his intellectual age is around 10.
The main thrust of Aaron Guzikowski’s screenplay soon resolves into Keller’s frenzied insistence that Alex knows. He and Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard) kidnap Alex and hide him in a derelict apartment block. Franklin can only watch in fear as Keller tries to cause Alex enough pain to make him reveal the answer, posing the question, should a man stand mutely by while his friend savagely beats a helpless, terrified victim?
It’s a bravura performance from all three actors. And it’s brutally un-nice.
Two high school kids sitting near me reckoned it was a good film let down by the ending, which I thought worked well. Its bleak weather enhances the tense complexity of its intertwining plot threads. It is, by any measure, a film not easily dismissed.
At Palace Electric, Capitol 6, Hoyts and Limelight