DRAMA; 2hr 33min
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis
Law and disorder: Gyllenhaal (left) and Jackman
From nowhere, a simple Thanksgiving lunch is a descent into hell for the Pennsylvania parents of two missing little girls. Sometime during the afternoon, the girls, who, like their mothers and fathers, are good friends, disappear from the streets of a seemingly moribund suburb. The suspect, a childlike young man (Paul Dano) lurking in a shabby RV, doesn’t pan out in an investigation that is an exercise in frustration for the wound-up detective in charge (Gyllenhaal) and a nightmare for the progressively frantic parents (Jackman, Bello, Howard and Davis).
Incendies director Denis Villeneuve’s suburbia is an entrapping microcosm whose people are battlers with few illusions. Aaron Guzikowski’s screenplay fleshes it out in a marvel of white-knuckle construction and the cast is flawless. With Bello, Howard and Davis lending fraught support, Jackman’s Keller Dover is a seething time bomb while Gyllenhaal plays Detective Loki with tatts and a nervous eye twitch that instantly define him. The drastic action that Dover takes and the animal ugliness that follows seem born of an enveloping, sullen menace. This isn’t an America of noble aspirations — within its oppressive confines, the line between good and evil is frighteningly diffuse.