It's not just the stellar cast and the Oscar-nominated director that makes Prisoners look like more than your average kidnapping thriller. Like many of the most gorgeous films of the last decade Prisoners was shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins, the 10-time Oscar nominee whose work on films like No Country for Old Men, Skyfall and The Man Who Wasn't There has created some of the most gorgeous images in film history.
"He's a Jedi," says Prisoners star Paul Dano, who marveled at an early scene in the film, set in the woods at night, that was lit only by flashlights. Hugh Jackman, who isn't even in that scene, was astonished by the same one, pointing out the way a gas station lurks in the background behind Jake Gyllenhaal's character "like an alien ship." But since he's playing a father desperately searching for his missing daughter, Jackman focused more on the many special weather effects that Deakins was able to masterfully film-- and the demands he made to have the weather looking perfect in every shot:
It becomes very ominous, the way there is not one sliver of sunshine in the entire movie, even though we're shooting in Atlanta. The sun came out on Day 2, and [Roger] goes "Oh, let's go inside." I'm like, "Really." He said, "zyeah, I don't like the sun. I said, "Man, we've got 60 days to go. Are you going to go inside every time there's sun?" "Yeah." It probably takes a 10-time nominee to demand that.
Deakins may have never won any of the 10 Oscars he's been nominated for, but he's a living legend by pretty much any description, and in honor of Prisoners' release in theaters this weekend we're honoring Deakins by picking out favorite shots and moments from some of his most beautiful films. From a hallway bursting into flames to a snowy parking lot to a fight in a glossy high-tech building, Deakins makes both banal and extraordinary spaces seem more than themselves. Celebrate his stellar career with us below.
Barton Fink The wallpapered hallway at the Hotel Earle might be the ugliest location we're celebrating, but Roger Deakins manages to make it magically sinister, even before it bursts into Biblical flames. Barton Fink does for rundown flophouses what The Shining did for regal hotels, imbuing the hallway with its own sinister personality, setting up the surreal danger to come well before Barton realizes what he's gotten himself into.
The Shawshank Redemption Superior cinematography isn’t necessarily about choosing the most beautiful or the most inventive angles. More often than not, it’s about finding ways to subtly make a moment more beautiful, more terrifying, more depressing, more something. During the utterly brilliant escape reveal in Shawshank Redemption, Deakins cuts to a camera inside the hole the second the poster is ripped off and slowly lets it zoom away from the dumbfounded faces agape inside the cell. It’s a slow, stunning burn and more importantly, it’s the perfect way to illustrate how blindsided they were by Andy’s plan. It’s the best shot in one of the best movies ever made.