Prisoners Movie Review

A child being kidnapped is a nightmare for any parent and a topic that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  PRISONERS dives head first into the frightening subject as an effective thriller with an intense pace that ultimately will keep audiences captivated, overlooking some of the film’s more detrimental flaws.

Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal in Prisoners

Six-year old friends Anna Dover and Joy Birch go missing on Thanksgiving Day in a suburban neighborhood.  While all signs of the kidnapper point to a mentally challenged young man named Alex (an exquisite performance by Paul Dano), the authorities can’t find any physical evidence to hold him in custody.  Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is looking thoroughly into all possibilities.  In the meantime, Anna’s father Keller (Hugh Jackman) decides to take matters into his own hands torturing the man he believes is the culprit to find his daughter by any means necessary.

Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello in Prisoners

Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello and Hugh Jackman all give emotional performances as the parents of these two lost girls.  Obviously, losing a child to abduction would drive any parent mad and each character handles the heartache differently as they all suffer in their own way.  While PRISONERS provides a glimpse into their character’s reactions, it only fully explores the desperation of Jackman’s Keller.   On the other end of the spectrum, Jake Gyllenhaal provides a much needed grounding to the film as Detective Loki, whose procedural tactics to discover the mystery will hopefully keep the audience guessing despite what I believe are one too many clues.  I’ve been a fan of Gyllenhaal for quite sometime and he is perfect here as a likable earnest character trying to do his job.  His character is a welcome relief to the emotional chaos provided by nearly everyone else.

Paul Dano, Jake Gyllenhaal in Prisoners

While the film focuses on these two characters that make flawed decisions, I think PRISONERS would have benefited by expanding on some of the details surrounding the drama. Director Denis Villeneuve, who directed the Academy Award nominated foreign film INCENDIES in 2010, has a great outline but I believe is his own worst enemy.  To his credit the film is edited in a way that allows the audience to immerse themselves into the action and emotions on screen.  But the film unnecessarily drags out to a 153 minute runtime.  There is a lot in this film still left unexplored but some of the time is eaten up by dwelling on redundant emotions or pauses when the audience has already reached the intended conclusions.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Prisoners

I apologize for some of my vagueness but my biggest complaints come with the films twists and answers.  While PRISONERS presents some fascinating new elements to the table it wraps them up in an irresponsible way.  There are victims treated as villains and villains treated as victims, which I completely admire as a real life consequence. However PRISONERS seems to ignore this grand agenda during the final moments, casually brushing its greatest element aside for some illogical confronting action.

PRISONERS is a dark and gritty film about a terrifying and heartbreaking subject matter.  Presenting a plethora of unexplored themes, the film unfortunately never completes its more intriguing topics.  While the missed opportunities might leave you with too many frustrating questions, PRISONERS does manage to keep a riveting pace for a thrilling journey.


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