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Stars: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo, Len Cariou, Wayne Duvall, David Dastmalchian

Director: Denis Villeneuve

This is a pretty solid thriller, vaguely in Zodiac style, and very tense towards the end - but it is also one that raises almost as many questions as it answers.

Two little girls disappear; their parents (Jackman, Bello, Howard, Davis) are naturally beside themselves with worry. Like us, they know how these things usually turn out, and it's not for the best.

Director Villeneuve, however, has to give us enough hope that the girls might be found alive to sustain us through two and a half hours, and by and large he does a decent job of doing it. And there's a suspect: simple-minded Alex (Dano), who lives with his adoptive mother (Leo) and was in his RV outside the children's homes at the time of their disappearance.

Unable to find proof of his involvement, the police, headed by Loki (Gyllenhaal) have to release him.

Manhandled by Jackman outside the police station, Dano whispers 'They didn't cry until I left them' and Jackman is convinced he's the kidnapper. Following Dano walking his dog, Jackman overpowers the youth and carts him off to a dilapidated house he happens to own. With Howard's reluctant help, he beats the susoect to a pulp in the hope of a confession.

Meanwhile, Loki has another suspect - a young man seen buying children's clothes...

A tad lengthy, with a few too many scenes of people sitting in cars, the film also leaves one scratching ones head on more than one occasion. Gyllenhaal's character has odd tattoos on his knuckles and neck, and a cross on one hand, but his backstory is never examined; and why is he always on his own? Don't cops in this town ever investigate in pairs? And why does the second suspect steal items of clothing from the victims' houses?

A mysterious maze symbol is kind of explained, if not how it relates to both suspects. Performances, though, are intense and distinctive, the story gets edgier by the minute, and the clues to the dénouement are there for those clever enough to read them.

David Quinlan

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Entertainment One (Lionsgate/Summit). Colour by deluxe.
148 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 21 Sep 2013