Prisoners

Summary:

Dark, captivating, and frightening, Prisoners is an experience worth seeing. Prisoners features a religious subtext that does a great job of being present without being overtly in your face. Hugh Jackman’s performance as Keller Dover is incredibly powerful and flips between disturbing and sympathetic. The anguish he feels over the loss of his child is wonderfully portrayed on screen and the road it takes us on is dark and twisted. Aside from Jackman’s and Gyllenhaal’s characters the rest of the cast feels like an afterthought and aren’t given fleshed out characters to work with. It may not be perfectly woven but there’s enough there to maintain investment and keep the audience glued to the screen. It’s definitely a performance driven film and on that alone it succeeds as a highly entertaining movie.

I’ve had my eye on Prisoners for quite a while. Although crime thrillers generally tend to follow a predictable pattern, Prisoners came out swinging with some pretty intense performance in just the trailer alone. Now having seen the movie I can say that Prisoners is definitely an entertaining movie and a much-welcomed treat in this otherwise dry spell at the theaters. Dark, captivating, and frightening, Prisoners is an experience worth seeing.

Prisoners Theatrical poster

When the daughter of Keller Dover goes missing, the devout family man is forced to do what ever is necessary to bring his daughter back. Feeling the cops are limited in their power, Dover takes matters into his own hands and begins following his own leads. With the pressure mounting and precious time passing, Keller Dover discovers just how far he’s willing to go to protect his family.

There’s a lot to appreciate here, but I’m going to start off with the negatives just to get it out of the way first. My biggest complaint with Prisoners is the lack of characterization for most of the characters, especially given the two and half hour run time. The movie feels so deeply focused on Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), and Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) that the rest of the cast feels like an afterthought. Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard) and his family are hardly used, despite having the great potential to serve as contrast to Keller Dover and his approach to finding his daughter. Even the Dover family is hardly touched on aside from a few scenes with a depressed bed ridden Grace Dover (Maria Bello). The families’ reactions feel so glossed over that I felt like we never really got the chance to know these characters. Even Detective Loki , despite a fantastic performance by Gyllenhaal, leaves something to be desired. The movie hints at his past career but we are never given anything substantial to chew on.

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Now the end of the film isn’t a negative aspect but I feel like it’ll be a very controversial ending, especially given the audience’s reaction in my theater. The film places the ending on the audience to fill in the gaps for themselves. For the most part it’ll work if you’re a bit forgiving but I feel as though the religious subtext and character progression needed to be handled a bit smoother for us to buy into the ending. Now it’s hard to go over this without potentially giving away spoilers so for the cautious I suggest skipping over the next two paragraph. The first will be discussed in vague terms but the second will be full blown spoilers.

Prisoners features a religious subtext that does a great job of being present without being overtly in your face. The morally ambiguous decisions Keller faces conflicts with his religious beliefs and he must choose how far he’s willing to go to save his daughter. By the end of the film though not everything is wrapped up nicely and it’s left up to the viewer to fill in the gaps that it seems that the writers weren’t too sure how to fill in themselves. The question is then left in the audience’s hands to decide whether or not Keller had gone too far and if redemption is possible. The ultimate question here though is asking what would you do in Keller’s position? It’s definitely something to chew on and I normally enjoy ambiguous endings like these but in Prisoner’s case I feel like this could have been handled a little better. Although I applaud the subtext for not being cumbersome, I do feel that the film glosses over the stripping of Keller’s religious beliefs in a speedy fashion. I think given the time to show Keller’s transition would have helped to have guided the ending a little better and left a more satisfied response from the audience.

Major Story Spoilers

And if you delve even further into the spoilers the ending comes up somewhat hollow. We eventually learn that the kidnapper’s motives are due to a personal war against God. After losing their own child they kidnap and murder other children to force parents to lose their faith and turn into demons like them. Now, the ending of the film finds Keller trapped in the kidnapper’s secret bunker. The children have been found but Keller’s whereabouts remains unknown. The final scene ends with Detective Loki at the crime scene with an excavation crew digging around for more evidence. As they’re leaving Loki believes to hear a whistle being blown by Keller from underground, but isn’t entirely sure. He begins to leave and he hears the whistle one last time before the film cuts to black. To me this feels hollow because if we are to believe that Keller never makes it out of the bunker then he never realizes that his daughter is safe and has been found. However, if we are to believe that he is found and then reunited with his daughter it seems as though the kidnapper’s war with god is a victory given all that Keller has done, legal repercussions aside that is. Again this is the question that the film asks of you but I feel like the choices we are given in this this choose your own adventure story feels like it messes with the film thematically.

End Major Story Spoilers.

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Now that being said, Prisoners still manages to overcome these obstacles based on performances alone. Even with thin characters the actors bring together an authenticity to them that would otherwise not be felt. Hugh Jackman’s performance as Keller Dover is incredibly powerful and flips between disturbing and sympathetic. The anguish he feels over the loss of his child is wonderfully portrayed on screen and the road it takes us on is dark and twisted. Jake Gyllenhaal also gives us a wonderful performance alongside Jackman. Gyllenhaal brings an ever-building frustration to his performance that depicts his turmoil between abiding by the law and stopping at nothing to find these girls. It allows for some intense explosions of anger and the performance is outstanding.  Finally, Paul Dano’s performance is absolutely stunning and brings so much to the screen while saying so little. His performance is creepy, saddening, and overall captivating. I couldn’t help but feel both sorry for and disturbed by Dano anytime he was on screen.

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The film itself is beautifully shot in a gloomy way and captures the looming feeling of dread. There’s a constant state of despair throughout the movie and it allows for some truly frightening moments. Although not necessarily a horror movie, there are scenes in the film that completely caught me off guard and had me jumping in my seat. The film threads the story along wonderfully and watching everything tie together at the end is enjoyable. It may not be perfectly woven but there’s enough there to maintain investment and keep the audience glued to the screen.  When Prisoner’s only fault is wanting to know more about the characters then it’s definitely a good problem to have. It’s definitely a performance driven film and on that alone it succeeds as a highly entertaining movie.

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Dark, captivating, and frightening, Prisoners is an experience worth seeing. Prisoners features a religious subtext that does a great job of being present without being overtly in your face. Hugh Jackman’s performance as Keller Dover is incredibly powerful and flips between disturbing and sympathetic. The anguish he feels over the loss of his child is wonderfully portrayed on screen and the road it takes us on is dark and twisted. Aside from Jackman’s and Gyllenhaal’s characters the rest of the cast feels like an afterthought and aren’t given fleshed out characters to work with. It may not be perfectly woven but there’s enough there to maintain investment and keep the audience glued to the screen. It’s definitely a performance driven film and on that alone it succeeds as a highly entertaining movie.

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Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
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One response to “Prisoners

  1. It’s a very dark movie, but it’s never depressing, and I think that’s because the story is just as compelling as you can get. Same goes for the awesome cast. Good review.

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