Prisoners (MA 15+)
DESPERATION is a theme known to all of us, something that can't be escaped, avoided or underestimated.
It comes to those with the strongest of faiths in a god and those with no beliefs in the hardest of times, showing itself in a million different ways.
Denis Villeneuve has recognised the power of emotion and turned a story of desperation into a grim picture of human nature.
Religion plays its part in desperation as help towards finding a way out.
Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is a believer, a man taught to be prepared for everything that naturally comes to us in life.
His world is destroyed when daughter Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) and her friend Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons) go missing, and naturally he and wife Grace (Maria Bello) are completely lost.
Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is brought into custody as a suspect, but inconclusive evidence leads to his release without charges.
Keller's desperation comes to the fore when he believes Alex holds the truth, and sets his own plan in motion to seek it.
Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is at odds with Keller, not out of his doing, and his frustration increases as his solid reputation for solving crimes does him no justice in this case.
Keller is a formidable figure, losing his strength and turning to violence against those he believes have wronged him.
He looks to God for his salvation and the return of the girls, and is one of many to play the blame game.
Keller and Grace are more obvious in their distress than Joy's parents, Franklin (Terrence Howard) and Nancy (Viola Davis) - but they too have their strong views on those they see as responsible.
Twists and turns take you through a stomach-turning 153-minute journey that reflects the feeling of endlessness inflicted on the central characters.
The story plays out across the course of a week, and Villeneuve capitalises on the length of the film to draw out uncertainty, despair and grievance.
Aaron Guzikowski has thrown characters of all sorts into a story about family, trust and helplessness.
His screenplay weaves Detective Loki's investigations with Keller's own journey to find the truth, adding in the impact the kidnapping takes on both of the families as well as Alex and his aunty Holly (Melissa Leo).
Everyone is a prisoner, whether behind iron bars or in their minds.
Jackman is vulnerable as Keller, a man so scared of how his situation came to be he becomes someone else.
Bello as the grieving mother is heartbreaking, and Gyllenhaal is great to watch as a bad-arse detective filled with doubt.
But Dano's creepy suspect Alex is simply frightening, conveying with so few words a picture of secrecy and fear.
Scenes between Dano and Jackman are the film's highlight.
With child kidnapping a contentious topic, films such as these show how easy it is for a family to collapse under its foundations.
Villeneuve gives his cast a big opportunity to explore those emotions of helplessness and desperation, and they grab it. This tense thriller shows the strengths and weaknesses of family units as well as individuals when an unseen force comes from nowhere.
Now screening at Reading Cinemas