One of the best psychological thrillers since “Misery”.

It’s every parents’ worst nightmare: your child is missing. With every passing hour, the likelihood of finding your child alive fades.

Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello are the Dovers . Viola Davis and Terence Howard are their best friends and neighbors, Franklin and Nancy Birch . As the two families enjoy Thanksgiving together, their two young daughters disappear between the two homes. The key suspect is a mentally/emotionally challenged young man (Paul Dano) whose suspicious dilapidated van is parked on their street. Led by Detective Loki (a never-better Jake Gyllenhaal), police release their one suspect for lack of evidence. Keller Dover ultimately takes maters into his own hands with the reluctant support of Frank Birch.

“Prisoners” is aptly titled. Everyone in this film becomes a prisoner to the devastating and beyond frightening situation. Jackman’s Keller Dover is a survivalist who is prepared for anything but this. This is his ultimate test. Rather than banding together to support each other, every member of these two families becomes increasingly isolated. Each handles the horror differently. While Keller goes on the offensive, taking the law into his own hands, his wife (Maria Bello) medicates herself to the point where she can’t even get out of bed- she completely retreats. Terence Howard’s Franklin prefers leaving the investigation in police hands but is convinced by Keller to join him, though he leaves all the action to Keller. Nancy, Viola Davis, had a different reaction after discovering the vigilantism .

This is really Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal’s movie. Gyllenhaals’ Oscar-bait performance is more nuanced and subtle, down to his character’s twitch. Jackman’s performance is more heavy-handed. Maria Bello, Viola Davis , Terence Howard, Paul Dano and his mysterious Aunt (Melissa Leo) are all grade-A.

My two complaints: 2 and a half hours is just too long. And the Dovers get much more screen time than the equally tortured Birch family.

While I don’t want to be a spoiler, please don’t let the subject matter of the film scare your away from seeing what has to be some of the best acting of the year- not to mention a story line that will keep you guessing til the end.