It rains a lot in "Prisoners." You watch much of this movie through smeared windshields and fogged window glass, adding a blurry bleakness to the already drab setting of rural, working-class Pennsylvania.
It's just as well that weather and night obscure our view. The details are almost unwatchable in the abduction of two young girls from their neighborhood one Thanksgiving evening, and the desperate search for them by law enforcement and their parents.
Scenes of search parties in day-glow vests with dogs scouring nearby woods feel ripped from newscasts. Neighborhood candlelight vigils look far more familiar than they should in a sane society.
Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki is leading the investigation. Loki has never failed to solve a case, but his face is a mystery of pain from his own past. He grew up in foster care. Gang-style tattoos adorn his neck and knuckles. Dark shadows ring his sleep-deprived eyes.
Hugh Jackman plays Keller Dover, the father of one of the missing girls, who takes matters in his own hands when he thinks the cops aren't moving fast enough. The fine cast also features Paul Dano, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello and Melissa Leo. Under the direction of Canadian Denis Villeneuve, the movie was a hit at the recent Toronto Film Festival and topped the box-office charts this week.
Superb cinematographer Roger Deakins ratchets up the gloom and darkness lurking in the storyline and the fears in its characters' souls. While the subject matter is disturbing, you can't pull away from the suspenseful mystery unfolding in leafless neighborhoods, colorless cafes and strip malls.
Detective Loki's progress and setbacks on the case are riveting, even as they take a huge personal toll on him. In fact, everyone pays a personal toll in this brooding fable. They're all prisoners - to failed responsibility, to guilt, to helplessness, to the past, but mostly to parents' unassailable love for their children.
As much as I wasn't looking forward to seeing "Prisoners," it turned out to be one of those movies that lingers in memory. It's the taut mystery that gets people into the theater where they sit spellbound - but it's the realization that we're all prisoners of the same emotions tormenting its characters that follows us home.
Speaking of the Toronto Film Festival, some of the most positive reviews from critics and audiences were for "Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon." This affectionate documentary comes from Mike Myers, leaving his "Wayne's World," "Austin Powers" and "Shrek" personas behind to make his directorial debut.
The film's subject is indeed a legendary artists' manager whose career encapsulates four decades of show business, changing the game as it went along. The movie offers a hilarious time-capsule ride through wretched excesses of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll featuring a who's who of A-listers as its interview subjects. It sums up their friend Shep as part (Beatles manager) Brian Epstein, part Marshall McLuhan and part Mr. Magoo.
What's unexpected is how instructive the movie is about doing the right thing, and how poignant it has become by the final frame. Shep is better known locally as a longtime South Maui resident, with lots of friends on the island. That, plus locations that everyone will recognize, add to the fun it will offer Maui audiences when it hits screens in coming months.
Local life and global media also converged at the Kaahumanu 6 last weekend, when writer-director Destin Cretton did Q&As between screenings of his award-winning "Short Term 12." It was the completion of a circle for Cretton, who grew up in Haiku and saw his first movies as a youngster at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center.
The arrival of these talented Maui guys on the silver screen isn't so much a victory for the home team as a gain for the rest of the world.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at email@example.com