Never one to shy away from controversial and heavy-hitting issues, Denis Villeneuve's latest film, crime-thriller Prisoners, explores just how far one man would go to save his child.

A carpenter and a survivalist at heart, Keller Dover (Jackman) is a devoted family man, living happily with his wife Grace (Bellow), teenage son, Ralph (Minnette), and young daughter, Anna (Gerasimovich), in the quiet town in Pennsylvania.

During a Thanksgiving meal with neighbours, Franklin (Howard) and Nancy Birch (Davis), tragedy strikes. The two youngest daughters of both families go missing after heading out to play, throwing both homes into a complete state of frenzy. After anxiously searching the neighbourhood to no avail, Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) – an unstable rebel of sorts whose sense of worth comes from the fact that he has never left a case unsolved – is quick to seize the prime witness, Alex Jones (Dano). However, with very little evidence to back up the arrest of the loner, Loki is forced to let him go.

Grief-stricken and convinced that Jones is the man that took their daughters, Keller and Franklin take matters into their own hands, and head down a dangerous path of vengeance and redemption.

Fuelled by rage, Jackman embraces the leading role of a grieving father, while Bellow and Davis offer strong supporting performances as grieving mothers. However, much like Howard and Leo – who also play significant parts in the story – a big part of what is a hugely talented cast is given little on-screen time for thorough character development. 

Gyllenhaal, meanwhile, offers a tour de force of a performance as the incredibly enticing and mysterious detective, whose controversial anti-hero ways shine on-screen. Dano, as the psychotic and introvert suspect, infuses the film with the an exacting degree of eeriness, every time he hits the screen.

Superbly executed as a piece of cinema, a chilling atmosphere flows throughout; rain, fog and cloudy skies work perfectly within the story to paint the overall mood, and sense of dread and fear. Unfortunately, there are several plot gaps which, as the film progresses, neutralises the story's initial energy.

Regardless of this, Villeneuve manages to deliver drama in heavy doses, thanks largely to a brilliantly assembled cast.