Inexplicably overbuzzed serial-killer/abduction thriller from Denis Villeneuve tries for a deep-think vibe by adding an hour of running time to what is essentially a standard-issue PBS Mystery episode (think INSPECTOR LEWIS or WALLANDER). Don’t be fooled. This sobersided dirge-like detective tale doesn’t miss a story beat: Red Herrings; Emergency phone calls that keep us from getting that pivotal clue; Convenient police inaction; And a go-it-alone cop who won’t even put the lid back on a box of slithering snakes. It all starts with the disappearance of Hugh Jackman & Terrence Howard’s cute daughters. Jackman is an Iron Man/survivalist sort who, thinking detective Jake Gyllenhaal isn’t getting the truth out of main suspect Paul Dano, kidnaps him for a bit of ‘enhanced interrogation.’ The plot more or less falls apart when Howard & his wife (Viola Davis) join in Dano's torture rather than call the cops, but Villeneuve needs to keep the narrative ball rolling. Meantime, Gyllenhaal peals back layers of complication, getting closer to the truth. If only he could properly search a house or follow a suspect. Yet, it’s possibly the best work of Gyllenhaal's career, with a commanding presence previously unsuspected, brought off without the grandstanding Jackson falls back on.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Try the first film in the RED RIDING TRILOGY/’09 (IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1974) to see this sort of thing done with a real bit of originality & flair.