Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2013: Jake Gyllenhaal in Prisoners

Jake Gyllenhaal did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Detective Loki in Prisoners.

Prisoners shows the investigation of the kidnapping of two young girls by both the police and one of the girls's father. It is an interesting film, beautifully shot of course, with some strong moments, but it never quite comes together as well as it potentially could have.

The film follows closely the father Keller Dover played by Hugh Jackman as he goes down a questionable path of torture in attempt to find his child. The film though gives just as much focus to the investigation lead detective of the case played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Where the investigation of the father is a constantly emotionally charged affair, which makes sense, but even more so due to Jackman's performance. Hugh Jackman often seems to be an actor who, for better or for worse, seems to try to give one hundred and ten percent with his performances. That is definitely the case here where he technically hits the right notes with his performance but he hits them a little too hard at times sometimes unfortunately make his acting more noticeable than really what the character is going through.

Jake Gyllenhaal on the other hand gives a far more measured performance in his portrayal of Detective Loki who is a detective who has successfully solved all of his cases before the film begins. When we first meet him Gyllenhaal is very effective in portraying the process of the Loki. When he is talking to the family about the situation Gyllenhaal properly suggests that he definitely invested in the case and suggests the thought process as he asks the questions about the abduction. Gyllenhaal is careful to show the slight act when Dover starts to become increasingly emotional during the questioning. When Loki tells Dover that we need to relax Gyllenhaal is terrific because he shows that actual type of police training in him with the appropriate artifice as it is something Loki does in very specific situations.

Gyllenhaal finds the right balance in the role to make a fully believable portrait of a Detective in such a case. Gyllenhaal shows Loki as almost ever so slightly aloof early on and most of all very calm. Gyllenhaal brings the confidence of Loki's success in these early scenes, and does properly suggest that Loki knows what he is doing and is sticking to his procedure properly. Gyllenhaal even goes so far as to almost be even slightly humorous in his performance and keeps Loki somewhat lighthearted as he goes around investigating sexual deviants to try to narrow down the case. This is not Gyllenhaal making Loki to be some sort of lifeless jerk, but rather this instead reinforces the idea that Loki is very much a professional and taking many of the developments of the case in stride is his way of keeping on task.

Gyllenhaal also avoid any problems from this approach in the way he portrays Loki's reactions when there appear to be any dark developments in the case including things like a rotting corpse in a cellar or perhaps a boxes filled with snakes and some bloodied clothes. Gyllenhaal is excellent in any of these scenes because technically speaking he still keeps the police command of the situation as he does not show Loki to become some sort of nervous wreck or anything but he very effectively portrays the reaction of a normal man seeing what Loki must see. He makes every revelation and scene all the more intense and gives them a greater impact because of how just realistic he is in showing Loki's reaction. Gyllenhaal always feels spot on here and following him through the investigation is a compelling experience because of him.

The film follows Loki through the case but as well with dealing with the increasingly intense Dover who definitely seems to be hiding something from Loki. As the case slowly gets less understandable and more hopeless that the girls will be found Loki will of course becomes more invested. Gyllenhaal is remarkable though because he never cheats in his portrayal of this. In his scenes with Jackman Gyllenhaal still keeps the appropriate distance as he should, but as well as a strong coldness towards Dover's behavior. Gyllenhaal again conveys the professionalism of Loki as a detective that keeps him this way toward Dover. Gyllenhaal does properly suggest in convincing subtle fashion that he understands Dover, but also he very blunt in showing that Loki really believes that Dover's behavior in no way is helping the case. 

Away Dover, and appropriately so as the lead detective would not want to show any weakness to the victims, Gyllenhaal very naturally reveals and builds Loki's frustrations and struggle with the case. Gyllenhaal handles it so delicately, never rushing a moments of it, and never once going overboard either, his very genuine depiction of Loki losing his resolve resonates powerfully. Even though I feel the film and Jackman often try a little too hard to emotionally charge the film, Gyllenhaal actually handles this much better by taking his more reflective approach. When Gyllenhaal brings the big emotions out you real feel them because he always does it at the right time, and in the right way.

I suppose one thing I should quickly mention is that Gyllenhaal plays Loki as man with a tic where he will blink a lot. It really is not an essential part of his character or anything, but I'll say it reminded me of someone I know who blinks just that way, so good job Gyllenhaal although I don't know if it was particularly necessary. Anyway Gyllenhaal easily is the best thing about the film and managed to amplify every scene of the film he is in through his realistic depiction of the full weight of one detectives investigation into a horrible crime. When I think of the strength of his performance the first scene I think of is Detective Loki's rush to the hospital at the end of the film, I found that a thrilling moment, the direction and music of course was well done, but what really kept me in the scene was Gyllenhaal's fierce portrayal of what Loki is going through both physically and mentally.

62 comments:

luke higham said...

1 down, 4 to go.

Gyllenhaal was fantastic.

Matt Mustin said...

He was terrifc, but I also liked Jackman a lot more than you did.

Matt Mustin said...

I do think Gyllenhall was better though, and I think it's probably his best performance.

Matt Mustin said...

What rating would you give Melissa Leo?

luke higham said...

Louis: Also, thoughts on Leo.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I absolute LOVED his performance. I was actually initially harsher on Jackman that you were, but a friend pointed out something about his approach that I could see people liking. But on Gyllenhaal, yeah, he owned the movie. I loved how he managed to show the perfect combination of professionalism, intensity, restraint, and appropriate exasperation at the crazy shit he's dealing with. One small scene that I wish was a little longer was his reaction to finding Dano beaten to a pulp. His reaction might be the best three seconds of his performance.

Louis Morgan said...

Matt: 3(Rewatching the film I thought she was fine but I did not think there was anything that remarkable about her performance either)

Michael Patison said...

So what would your top 5 supporting female performances of the year be, with ratings and thoughts? I think I remember you saying you needed to see more. Is that still the case?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

May I suggest Lea Seydoux in Blue is the Warmest Color if you haven't seen it?

Matt Mustin said...

Roger Deakins can make anything look absolutely amazing. Seriously, it wasn't even necessary for this film to be as beautifully shot as it was, but it certainly helped.

Louis Morgan said...

Michael: My top five is the same as it was before, the category was pretty weak for me.

1. Kristin Scott Thomas - Only God Forgives: 4.5(Acid tongued immorality at its finest)

2. Julianne Nicholson - August Osage County: 4.5 (The most natural performance in the film and easily the best part of the film)

3. Sarah Paulson - 12 Years a Slave: 4.5 (Almost demonic twist on the southern belle combining elegance with extreme cruelty so well)

4. Margo Martindale - August Osage County: 4(Seemed like her part received some cuts but she makes her impact well by playing up both her character's sunny personality and strong passive aggressive streak)

5. June Squibb - Nebraska: 4(Fit well in regards to Dern's performance as he showed why he was so defeated, and she's enjoyable enough with her constant inappropriate statements. Her best scenes though is easily when she tones it down such as when she talks to the farm couple or defends Woody)

Michael Patison said...

Oh I forgot you had already hashed it out. Sorry for making you do it over again.

Kevin said...

Hey Louis, what are your ratings and thoughts on his performances in Donnie Darko and Source Code?

Also, what are your ratings and thoughts on his and Michael Pena's lead performances in End of Watch?

luke higham said...

Louis: What were your thoughts on Sandra Bullock in Gravity, also, have you changed or kept the rating, the same since re-watch.

DonaldSutherlandGetHimAnOscar said...

What are your thoughts on Chris Cooper in American Beauty, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Magnolia and Bruce McGill in The Insider? For me these were the most underrated supporting performances of that particular year. My supporting actor Oscar choices that year would be:

Chris Cooper, American Beauty

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Magnolia

Tom Cruise, Magnolia

Bruce McGill, The Insider

Michael Clarke Duncan, The Green Mile

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I think I'm the only person alive who has Philip Baker Hall as his choice for 1999 Supporting Actor in Magnolia.

Louis Morgan said...

Kevin:

Donnie Darko - 4.5(Effective performance that combines the awkward coming of age side of his character right along with his mentally disturbed side)

End of Watch - 4.5(Both he and Pena are great together because of the chemistry they have which creates the necessary camaraderie between their characters. They work together incredibly well whether the scene be slightly humorous, or very serious and bride the gaps between the two perfectly)

Haven't watched Source Code.

Luke: I have not rewatched it so my thoughts are the same as they were before.

DonaldSutherlandGetHimAnOscar:

Chris Cooper (Out of the men his performance actually feels the most natural and he's pretty good in portraying the blunt nature of his character. I do feel the revelation of his character is very contrived but Cooper plays the scene of the revelation pretty well)

Philip Seymour Hoffman (A strong modest performance that knows how to stay back yet still bring a remarkable poignancy to his scenes)

Bruce McGill (Pretty strong one scene wonder, and his take down of the corporate lawyer is probably one of my favorite scenes in that film)

koook: Well I'm probably the only person who gives Sam Rockwell the win.

luke higham said...

Louis: who's being reviewed next.

RatedRStar said...

I think I would give Rockwell the win too but only just.

Kevin said...

Hey Louis, have you seen Enemy? It's also directed by Denis Vileneuve and also stars Gyllenhaal, and it looks like Gyllenhaal might top his performance here.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@Louis: Rockwell is my win twice for 2007 and 2012 Supporting Actor. People think I'm insane for that. I think I'm insane for not giving him more wins.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: Since others like me keeping it a secret I'll give a hint and say it's one of the Golden Globe nominees.

Kevin: I have not, but I definitely will when I have the chance.

koook: I meant specifically for 99.

mrripley said...

gr8 call on paulson and nicholson,i don't get the lupita love at all,i thopught in her 2 big scenes she showed her lack of ability,the tears for me were never real..

luke higham said...

Louis: have you heard about the Japanese Remake of Unforgiven.

Louis Morgan said...

Yes I have. I kinda wish, if they were going to remake it, it had been made soon after the original that way it could have been Tatsuya Nakadai in Eastwood's role and Tsutomu Yamazaki in Hackman's.

Matt Mustin said...

koook: Rockwell is my runner-up for 2012.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I'm definitely the only person who has him as their win for 2007 Supporting Actor in Jesse James, though. I thought he was heartbreaking. That, and Affleck is so not-Supporting it hurts.

luke higham said...

Louis: is there any performances, pre-1927, that you would give a 5 to.

Matt Mustin said...

Luke: He mentioned Max Shreck in Noferatu once (which I would agree with).

luke higham said...

Matt Mustin: I was looking through Lugosi's review in Dracula, thirty minutes ago, & found that Shreck was given a 5 in the comments section.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: Schreck's the only definite at the moment honestly I need to see more films from the period.

luke higham said...

Louis: what were your thoughts on Shreck.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: I'd say he is pretty much horror incarnate in every regard. I've always found the vampire as a rat, opposed to bat, to be especially creepy. Honestly his performance almost makes the plot of Shadow of a Vampire believable.

Matt Mustin said...

Back on the subject of Gyllenhaal, I thought he was brilliant in Brothers as well.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I'm glad you gave him a 4.5 for Donnnie Darko. Now, if you would be so kind as to move him above Russell Crowe's overrated performance in A Beautiful Mind...

luke higham said...

Louis: What is your rating & thoughts on Michael Stuhlbarg in A Serious Man.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: 4.5 (Very strong performance that is very naturally humorous by playing up just how much his character sticks to his proper manners despite everything going wrong for him, but never going to far with that though and portraying well the slowing building intensity inside such a reserved man)

luke higham said...

Louis: when shall the review be up.

Louis Morgan said...

Probably tomorrow.

luke higham said...

Lastly, Your top 5 shakespeare films, as well as your thoughts on them.

Louis Morgan said...

1. Throne of Blood (A visually stunning piece that creates a electrifying depiction of power hungry madness ably aided by the best portrayals of both Lord and Lady Macbeth, even though that's not what they are called)

2. Richard III (Olivier's best adaptation creating a remarkable almost playful tone where rather than simply observe his schemes Olivier seems to let us be part of it)

3. Henry V - Olivier version(The whole set up for the film is masterful, and its a thrilling depiction of the uplifting story)

4. Henry V - Branagh version(This shows that remakes are more than capable of coexisting with one another and Branagh finds his own different yet successful way to depict the story this time with a bit more grit and grime)

5. Romeo and Juliet (Not the Bard's best play but Zeffirelli did wonders with the material, especially the brilliant way he portrayed the duel between Mercutio and Tybalt)

There many I still need to see most notably Ran and Chimes at Midnight.

Michael Patison said...

Have you seen Branagh's Hamlet?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Alright, I'm going to name a few performances from years you've already done and ask what you thought of them;

Sam Worthington in The Debt
Sterling Hayden in The Long Goodbye
Eric Stoltz in Mask
Robert Mitchum in The Friends of Eddie Coyle
Peter Bolye in The Friends of Eddie Coyle
Campbell Scott in Roger Dodger
Toshiro Mifune in Red Beard

RatedRStar said...

I am sure Mifune will be on Supporting 65.

luke higham said...

Louis: what was your rating & thoughts on Benicio Del Toro in Che.

luke higham said...

Lastly, your ranking & thoughts on each film in the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy.

Louis Morgan said...

Michael: I've seen parts of it, but I've never watched it all the way through.

Koook: Unfortunately Red Beard is the only one of those films that I have seen, and Mifune is indeed a strong possibility for supporting 65.

Luke: 4.5 for Del Toro (Very strong performance that has often a strong silent charisma, and gives the character a powerful resolve. I actually wish the film had given a less romantic depiction of Che, because Del Toro really shines in the UN scenes where he suggests a much darker side)

Hot Fuzz (Easily my favorite and I love the second and rather liked the third on my list. This just fires on all cylinders perfectly and is just one hilarious scene after another with some solid action thrown in for good measure)

Shaun of the Dead (Balances the horror and the comedy quite brilliantly, and also contains Pegg's best performance in the trilogy)

The World's End (All three being comedies with some heart. This one tries for more heart, therefore it is not nearly as funny. It still pretty enjoyable although the genre parody is less effective here frankly because it is a little less well defined.)

luke higham said...

Louis: can I have your ratings for the casts of Shaun of the dead & Hot Fuzz, Dalton Excluded.

Matt Mustin said...

On the topic of Edgar Wright, what are your thoughts on Scott Pilgrim?

luke higham said...

Louis: What is your longest review.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Shaun of the Dead:

Pegg: 4.5
Frost: 4
Ashfield: 3
Davis: 3.5
Moran: 3.5
Nighy: 3.5
Serafinowicz: 3.5
Wilton: 3.5

Hot Fuzz:

Pegg: 4
Frost: 4
Broadbent: 4
Considine: 4
Spall: 3
Eldon: 2.5
Colman: 2.5
Johnson: 2.5
Bailey: 3.5
Woodward: 3.5
Wilson: 3.5
Freeman: 3.5
Blanchett: 3
Nighy: 3

My longest review is probably of either O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia or F. Murray Abraham.

Matt:

I think it is held back because Cera is a pretty obnoxious lead (and not in a good way), also the script at its worst feels Juno esque which to me is not a good thing. It is a visual treat and has plenty of laughs and some enjoyable supporting performances though.

Michael McCarthy said...

I agree with Louis that Hot Fuzz is the best of the trilogy, but I also think that's Pegg's best performance. He was great in Shaun of the Dead, but I thought in Hot Fuzz he exceled both at giving a realistic cop performance an a humorous deadpan performance.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I remember you said you'd review Timothy Dalton in Hot Fuzz. Possibly the best shit-eating grin I've ever seen. Also, I LOVE Scott Pilgrim to death. I literally drop everything when it's on TV.

Michael Patison said...

Louis, wait, you thought Jackman's performance technically worked? I disagree. I think he would have done better to have played the first have quieter than he did. I thought the second half of his performance, blatant as it was emotionally speaking, was terrific. For me, his best scene, though, was his scene soon after finishing the torture chamber when he quietly breaks down. I thought the first half of his performance wasn't quiet enough. He is supposed to show how a man can be corrupted by initially the best of things (in this case a desire to find a kidnapped child) can cause the best of men to go off the deep end, and he started already dangling over the edge.

Matt Mustin said...

Michael Patison: Um, I'm pretty positive you guys are on the exact same page there.

Louis: What are your comments on Stephen Tobolowsky and Harriet Sansom Harris in Memento?

Michael Patison said...

We may be, but I didn't read Louis' take on the perf that way. I took it as he plays the emotions well (which I don't think he does almost at all in the first half) but just overdoes it a bit. His thoughts would also indicate to me that he didn't think Jackman's perf was effective in the second half, while I did (though a quieter 1st half would have made the 2nd devastating).

luke higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Pegg & Frost in Shaun of the Dead & Pegg, Frost, Broadbent & Considine in Hot Fuzz.

Anonymous said...

Ya know, one of the reasons it probably takes Louis a long time to review nowadays is because too many questions get asked that really arent worth asking, like I am sure the same question has been asked about 10 times lol.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: I could say that, I had to wait 4 days after Volonte's review, for 1970, just for Alejandro Jodorowsky & I don't recall there being anymore than 20 comments on the page.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Also, I believe Louis is happy enough to give thoughts on performances that weren't able to be reviewed, mainly because of the requests.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Lastly, no offense to Fritz, but it seems to take an eternity from him/her to post a review & Oscar Nerd hasn't posted a review in two and a half weeks, so in Louis's case I'm not worried at all because he has written a shit ton more than any other film analyst on blogger.

Louis Morgan said...

Michael Patison: I don't think we really disagree. I think technically speaking he is not ineffective in that he does make an impact with his performance, although whether or not that is a good impact is up to debate.

I agree he should have played the first half quieter but that's what I mean by hitting the notes too hard. Because his character was a survivalist it makes sense that he would always be somewhat intense even when he does not have a reason to be. I feel though that Jackman could have conveyed that with more subtlety though therefore yes he should have been quieter earlier on in other words not hit the note, which was the intensity of a survivalist, so hard.

Matt: Both are excellent making the short film within the larger film as they make their struggle very authentic feeling and quite moving.

Luke:

Pegg - Shaun of the Dead (A great performance and if that year was a little less packed I would definitely review him. He flawlessly combines the drama of Shaun's whole personal traumas, with a completely hilarious performance at the same time)

Frost - Shaun of the Dead (This is how you do a technically obnoxious character. He is consistently amusing yet always endearing no matter what his behavior might entail)

Pegg - Hot Fuzz (As basically what Michael said he is an effective action lead while giving an enjoyably dead pan performance)

Frost - Hot Fuzz (Hilariously played extreme enthusiasm with an endearing naiveté)

Broadbent (Enjoyably genial performance at first yet quite hilarious while being chilling after the twist)

Considine (Probably my favorite performance as the stupid cop giving our hero cop a hard time for no reason ever. He technically does it in the usual fashion yet to such an extreme to make it extremely funny. I also love his exchange near the end of the film when he finally comes around to accepting Nick Angel)

Anonymous: Actually I've a been busy with other things lately that's all. I don't mind answering the questions at all.