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The movie begins with Hugh Jackman's character, Keller Dover, attending his son's successful kill of a deer. Just into the film, we're not quite sure what to prioritize, how much yet to ascribe any particular that strays into our sight, so we give the fact that the movie shows hunting to be about springing on an animal whose attention is preoccupied elsewhere, full due. Hunting means killing, and possibly in the process, terribly wounding an animal whose flank is to you. When Keller salutes his son for the effort, we're certainly willing to submerge this fact so it doesn't too much incriminate a father whose love for his son is real, but it's certainly not completely out of mind when Keller's best friend's oldest daughter asks his son if he is comfortable stalking deer. The son replies not with his experience but with what his father would say in retort: hunting is a way to keep nature in balance ... and besides, how soon are you about to turn away from innocent-cow-produced burgers? So, when we eventually find out that the person intent on hunting down children describes her efforts about as coldly, if for an inverse purpose--for her it's about disrupting God's plans, not tending them: nothing tees people off into madness than the disappearance of children--are we in mind to ascribe equivalence, even slightly? No, the movie isn't that sophisticated. They're not both addled on over onto the same suspect line, which might include everyone sufficiently besotted they're non-blanched at making insipid imprints on beautiful flesh, including the numerous-tattooed, somewhat sullen and snide detective, Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), but rather one doggedly good against one entirely evil. But likely unconscious to us, we've still in some way aligned them together: you've got to be able to turn hard on other's suffering if you mean to pursue larger goals. He ends up torturing a young man for days and days to get information he just knows he possesses, and it's the most abominable path in that it leads him to a point where no one--not even you, the movie-goer--has any sure faith in him anymore. He's all alone in a void where going on looks to be about either obliterating all awareness that he might actually have made an awry choice which resulted in his doing something damnable, useful only in satisfying a desire to feel efficacious and rage against a world with no choice but to suffer his bruising imprint; or maybe just, still holding onto his awareness that his victim had given him sure signs--the kinds of signs an experienced hunter recognizes instinctively in the gives of prey--that to get to the kids their location has to be broken out of him. What could have doomed him, what was dooming him, instead hefted him off into herodom ... he was right, and gets to the true child abductor--the aunt--first. Jail for his actions becomes, what, scratching him with a few negligible abrasions as he slowly stretches up into a human giant? Yes indeed; only that.

Taking her down fails, looking to be owing to his not being so good going after another hunter--he'd become excellent at some point, but remains at this point nonetheless a newbie at this. He prides himself in once again getting into her house, seemingly through another successful deception--he'd done a number on the detective previously, and seemingly also before the aunt, so surely he's already got good game with this skill, right?--not realizing this means getting him off the street and turning his vulnerable flank to actually pistol-armed her. And for a human being, who, like a deer, can be taken down by even one shot, this means the end of his efforts. But it still seems like an instance of first through the wall always gets hurt: with the follow-up pursuit by the detective, the aunt relents almost immediately, as if the game has got now to be up entire, hoping only for one last successful slay of a child, one last nasty rippling through of the human community to unsteady God, before becoming rendered a shot-through crumpled form requiring burial or cremation. 

The movie gives a great deal of give on who it's okay to be--for instance, the priest we first encounter as a drunken mess, had once taken upon himself to do in someone who had slain numerous children and would have slain more if he hadn't stepped in, even if this still made him someone who stores a bound corpse in his basement. But it's not so pleasant to true teddy-bear types. The father of the other abducted child, Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard), is a professional, wears fine sweaters, endeavours to play the trumpet, makes his basement into a friendly entertainment space, and he, unlike Keller, can't bear to keep what Keller is up to to himself. So while Keller, to keep the possibility of retrieving his child's location alive, lets himself be thought of as someone who deals with a crisis selfishly by escaping to a retreat and into alcohol, Franklin coughs it up pretty much immediately to his wife Nancy (Viola Davis). Keller finds this out by Nancy's banging on his door to accost him, with her husband behind her, sundered and shamed for betraying his friend's trust and relenting to his wife to handle things subsequently. The film figuratively castrates him once again, when his wife actually ends up agreeing with Keller, telling her husband to adopt Keller's ability to think on their children rather than take the "easy" way out, and absolve the long-tortured, mentally-disabled man any subsequent abuse.

It's not so easy on tortured, abducted kids, either. It's probably not so unpleasant to those like the Birch's girl, who succeeds in an escape not too far long into her capture, but those kept long enough in terrible conditions that they're going to show signs of crippling owing to it, sure aren't treated that well. Think Paul Dano's character Alex Jones, a victim of child-abduction, who we are repeatedly told hasn't any sadistic intentions towards children himself and is possessed of a ten-year-old's mental state and intelligence, and who is beat to near the point of death and then boxed in and subjected alternatively to blasts of intense heat and intense cold. Think David Dastmalchian's character Bob Taylor, who we learn too was an abducted child subjected to terrific abuse, and who too now though a bag of quirks remains nevertheless essentially harmless, and is beaten to a pulp by the detective before he does a quick steal of a gun and blows his own head off. The film does agonies of horror to these two, and then when it gets to the child-afflicter herself, it lets her off with but one easy bullet ... is it too much to say it was done out of respect? Abused children are urinals you can piss in yet again, just let it gush and gush all over them, while the abductor is a just-come-upon statue you're surely baiting the gods by taking down in any drawn out way.  

P.S. People have accused Chris Nolan's Dark Knight series as being misanthropic, and you'd have to wonder then what adjective they'd need to invent to adequately damn this film. Dastmalchian was a tormented, insane man in that film too we remember, and Batman scolded the DA intent on tormenting information out of him that he was raging on someone mentally sick--a schizophrenic--and that he wasn't going to get anywhere with this. Batman also said the thing that took him out of his despair of finding himself parentless, alone, and in a hell of self-accusation that was sure to render him insane, was a surprise moment of kindness--Inspector Gordon's putting his coat around him and talking to him in nurturance and sympathy. Dark Knight's philosophy applied to this film would have had the torture go nowhere, and for the breakthrough to have come from Nancy's effort to break with the program and show some trust in Alex, who'd known so little of it in life. I like this film, but you can bet I would have preferred to have seen this. It's the truth--kindness is the way to go, if we're really interested in making a better world rather than accosting ourselves for once having put purposeful posts up in that direction. And boy oh boy does the world need this reminder. 


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