Oscars 2013: EW's no-nonsense Prize Fighter analysis of early contenders '12 Years a Slave,' 'Gravity,' more ...

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Prisoners (Sept. 20)

Dark, dark, and darker …

In this thriller, two little girls go missing and their fathers (Hugh Jackman and Terrence Howard) become so unhinged by grief that they kidnap and torture the prime suspect (a creepy-as-ever Paul Dano.)

The movie takes the audience into an abyss, but the script by Aaron Guzikowksi also delivers some impressive corkscrewing revelations. That all-to-rare element of surprise, coupled with intense, lively dialogue, will make this a top contender in the Original Screenplay race.

Prisoners has one of the most impressive casts of the season, with Maria Bello and Viola Davis as the mothers of the missing girls, Melissa Leo as the pathetic, crotchety aunt of the lead suspect, and Jake Gyllenhaal as the above-board detective trying to resolve the case without committing any further crimes in the process. The cast is so tightly wound together it’s hard to pick one actor as a breakout. The Screen Actors Guild Awards is the only ceremony with an “ensemble” category suitable for this film.

Director Denis Villeneuve does subtle work bringing the story to life, but it’s the power of Guzikowski’s script – which lingered a long time in Hollywood development purgatory – that seems like the best contender for a trophy.

NEXT PAGE: Rush (Sept. 27)

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