THRILLER about kidnapped kids and a father's revenge is no new thing, but beefy leading man of the moment Hugh Jackman imbues Prisoners with the tension and physicality required in this provocative drama.
He steps up as a desperate father who takes justice into his own hands when his little girl is abducted.
The subsequent quest for answers and reconciliation regardless of the consequences is carefully crafted in Denis Villeneuve's well paced picture.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and, when authorities fail to solve the case, Jackman's character goes from doting family man to snarling judge, jury and executioner.
And when characters suffer, they do so in sickening close-up.
The film begins with Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) hunting with his teenage son.
They return home with a slain deer, and the entire Dover clan, including wife Grace (Maria Bello) and daughter Anna (Erin Gerasimovich), heads over to the home of their neighbours for Thanksgiving lunch.
Soon after, Anna and the Birch's girl, Eliza (Zoe Soul), disappear to look for a missing whistle and they never return.
The two sets of parents are distraught and Ralph remembers a suspicious RV parked down the road.
Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) and local police arrest the driver, who has the mental age of a 10-year-old.
Without any evidence to link the arrestee to the crime, police let their prime suspect go back into the care of his mother.
So Keller kidnaps Alex at gunpoint and holds the young man hostage.
"We hurt him until he talks or the girls are going to die," Keller tells Franklin.
Prisoners is technically polished, and since cinematographer Roger Deakins (Dead Man Walking, Fargo) is on board it looks spectacular.
Guzikowski's script pushes Keller to the edge of the abyss then curiously leaves him standing there for the final hour, throwing in numerous plot twists and another suspect to delay the father's fall from grace.
Jackman is mesmerising as a protector willing to ignore his moral compass to reunite his fractured family.
Gyllenhaal invests his rebellious cop with an array of twitches and ticks that hint at rage bubbling beneath the surface while Dano is creepy as a man-child, whose innocence remains shrouded in doubt until the tricksy closing frames.
The excessive running time might put off some audiences, but patience is rewarded with fine performances and a slick final act that ties up most of the loose threads.