‘Prisoners’ is both gripping, grueling

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At 2½half hours, “Prisoners” often groans under the load of its own self-importance. But Denis Villeneuve’s kidnapping thriller — about the disappearance of two little girls and its aftermath — is as gripping as it is grueling, with performances that swing for the fences and a knotty central mystery.

Hugh Jackman plays the most volatile of the four parents — he gives off fumes of self-righteousness even before he chains the leading suspect (Paul Dano) to a sink — and Jake Gyllenhaal counterbalances him as the smart, increasingly stressed detective on the case. Villeneuve is aiming for the brass ring of “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Zodiac,” and he comes pretty close. With Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, and Maria Bello.

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