In Tuesday’s post, I had written that on Wednesday, I would post reviews of the other three movies I saw at the Maine International Film Festival (MIFF). However, for various reasons, including a trip to Lucky Gardens in Hallowell, the day got away from me.
No matter, I will post one more review today—of Prisoners—and the last two tomorrow. Because Prisoners was such a memorable event, this piece will also do double duty for Three Things Thursday, my weekly exercise in gratitude. This, to me, is a winning situation as I love combining things.
First, a bit of backstory. My nephew Patrick, who is twenty-three, is a full-fledged cinephile whose taste in movies extends well beyond summer blockbusters. (He’s our nephew, that’s for sure.) Patrick is such a movie buff that he is even a fan of certain cinematographers such as Roger Deakins, whose films include No Country for Old Men, Kundun, and many, many others. At this year’s MIFF, Deakins was honored with the festival’s brand-new Karl Struss Legacy Award for “distinguished achievement in cinematography.” Patrick wanted to go to the presentation of this award, which also included a showing of the 2013 movie Prisoners, featuring Roger Deakins’s incredible cinematography. Among others, the film stars Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Viola Davis. And so Dee, Clif, and I went to see Prisoners with Patrick and his mother, Rose.
U.S.A 2013—152 minutes
From the moment this film opens in a bleak, dreary woods with a lone deer in the distance—a deer you know won’t be long for this world—the tone is set for this dark movie. Two families in a neighborhood join together for a Thanksgiving dinner. In each family there is a teenager and a young daughter. The Thanksgiving meal is the one bright note in Prisoners, where it is made clear that the families truly enjoy being together. After the meal, the two little girls go out, and they never come back. The families descend into grief as the days pass, and the girls are not found. Hugh Jackman, one of the fathers, decides he knows who kidnapped the girls. Taking matters into his own hands, he crosses lines that should not be crossed. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a tightly-wound detective who comes from a troubled background. This movie really does keep viewers on the edge of their seats, especially as there is even a scene that involves snakes. Deakins’s brooding cinematography adds a chilling menace to this disturbing film. Best of all, Prisoners never descends into cliché, where the cop and the frantic father become buddies and bring the movie to a heart-warming ending. Quite the reverse. The two men never warm up to each other, and this holds true for the entire film.
After the movie, Roger Deakins received his award and was interviewed on stage by a journalist from the New York Times. (Unfortunately, I don’t remember the journalist’s name.) Deakins spoke about how he didn’t want to achieve the same look in every movie and how he thought cinematography shouldn’t call attention to itself. For Deakins, the story is the thing. An illuminating interview with a true master.
When the interview was over, Clif, Dee, and I went to the lobby, but Patrick and Rose did not follow us.
“Where’s Patrick?” I asked.
“He wanted to shake hands with Roger Deakins,” Dee replied.
She had no sooner said this than Patrick came striding out of the theater, and there was a big, big smile on his face.
He said, “I can’t believe I just got to shake hands with the cinematographer for No Country for Old Men.”
Surely, this must be one of the best lines from a MIFF attendee.