Prisoners: Lock This Movie Up and Throw Away the Key

by Ethan Alter September 20, 2013 5:55 am
<i>Prisoners</i>: Lock This Movie Up and Throw Away the Key

For those folks who though Se7en was too cheery and Zodiac too fast-paced, here comes Prisoners, a sprawling crime drama in the tradition of David Fincher, but minus his level of artistry. Given that it's predicated on one of the worst nightmares for any parent -- the sudden, unexplained disappearance of a child -- I can't deny that the movie often unnerved me, particularly during its first half-hour in the immediate aftermath of the crime. But as Prisoners plodded along for 153 minutes, I grew increasingly detached from the scenario and more conscious (and resentful) of the way director Denis Villeneuve and writer Aaron Guzikowski were manipulating events in the cause of false profundity. A movie like Zodiac (and Se7en to a degree, although Andrew Kevin Walker's script is far from subtle) amounts to far more than the details of its central mystery precisely because Fincher doesn't grab viewers by the neck and force them to look between the clues. Prisoners wants us to know it's, like, all metaphorical and stuff… even at the expense of the facts of the case.

Indie Snapshot: Being Flynn

by Ethan Alter March 2, 2012 6:01 am
Indie Snapshot: <i>Being Flynn</i>

Don't feel bad if you spend the first five minutes of Being Flynn wondering if you've wandered into Taxi Driver 2 by mistake. Director Paul Weitz unavoidably invites comparisons to Martin Scorsese's 1976 classic with an opening scene that features his star Robert De Niro -- playing Jonathan Flynn, one of the movie's three titular Flynns -- walking into a parking garage and taking a swig of an alcohol-laced drink before firing up the yellow cab he pilots for a living. The Travis Bickle resemblance grows eerier a few scenes later, when we glimpse Jonathan sitting in his cramped studio apartment, scribbling his thoughts on paper while speaking to us in voice-over. (Based on what we hear though, Jonathan's mind is a considerably less scary place than Travis's.) This clearly isn't accidental, as both De Niro and Weitz are too savvy to not recognize the iconography they're referencing. Instead, it seems like a cheeky inside joke to the movie buffs in the audience, as well as a tip-off that this won't be a Little Fockers-style phoned-in paycheck part for De Niro, but rather a role where he'll be required to actually act.

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