Prisoners (2013)

Prisoners (2013)
  • Time: 146 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Denis Villeneuve
  • Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard


How far would you go to protect your family? Keller Dover is facing every parent’s worst nightmare. His six-year-old daughter, Anna, is missing, together with her young friend, Joy, and as minutes turn to hours, panic sets in. The only lead is a dilapidated RV that had earlier been parked on their street. Heading the investigation, Detective Loki arrests its driver, Alex Jones, but a lack of evidence forces his release. As the police pursue multiple leads and pressure mounts, knowing his child’s life is at stake the frantic Dover decides he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands. But just how far will this desperate father go to protect his family?


  • “Prisoners” was unique and amazing, and it had my attention the whole way through. The suspense keeps the viewer engaged till the very last scene of the film. Throughout the film, I was on the edge of my seat, cause you really have no idea as to what’s going to happen next. This movie is a roller-coaster ride of emotions, thrills & suspense. The script has been written so beautifully that, the viewer is left with questions even after the credits start rolling. The second highlight of the film is the performances. The acting is superb and so crisp and emotional. Hands down Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhall and Terence Howard and the rest of the cast deserve an Oscar. From start to finish you’re gonna enjoy the story and the twists and words can’t explain how incredible the story is. Go see it, you will not be disappointed!

  • This movie has a great plot and it is filled with many layers. However, I feel like it took too long to get to the ending it was leading up to. It got repetitive and long. With everything going on so slowly, it gave the movie a fantastic sense of dread that made us relate to the parents. However, it also gave me time to think and I was able to figure out the ending twist halfway through the movie. Another thing that bothered me was the red herring that appeared halfway through. It was obvious and should have been cut down for time.

    Although I have my gripes, I overall enjoyed this movie. The acting was superb. Everyone did a fantastic job, but Paul Dano and Hugh Jackman stole the whole thing. They gave Oscar-worthy performances. I also give credit to DP Roger Deakins for the amazing visuals. The highlight of his work was during the rush to the hospital near the end. Simply phenomenal. I wasn’t just at the edge of my seat; I was out of it, my eyes glued to the screen and fists clenched. It was so suspenseful and it was solely because of the cinematography. I also loved the plot of the movie, but I just feel like it dragged out. It would have been an excellent 2 hour movie instead of 2 and 1/2 hours.

    I enjoyed this movie and I’d recommend this movie. However, I would not want to see it again.

  • “Pray for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

    My wife wanted to watch another thriller. And what a thriller it was ultimately. With a thriller of such high level as “Prisoners”, my wife starts to surf the internet so she can read the plot. She begins to get nervous and says in a indignant way that everything takes far too long and was terribly stretched.

    “Prisoners” is a real nail-biting movie and actually a mix of a psychological drama with a heart-pounding suspense and a dash of horror. A mix of “Mystic River” and every top movie where a serial killer is hunted down like “The Silence of the Lambs” or more recently “The Frozen Ground”. The viewer is confronted with terrible questions of conscience. How far would you go when your dearest person is taken away? Would you dare to take the law into your own hands and commit degrading acts to find the truth ? We are also witnessing the desperation and helplessness that an investigator of such crimes feels.

    Hugh Jackman plays the role of the father in despair, Keller Dover, with lot of enthusiasm. He shows a person torn by frantic rage and immense sadness because he first lost his lovable daughter and secondly fails as a householder who said he could protect his family against anything. His wife Grace, played by Maria Bello, gets in a depressed state as the days are progressing. Sleep and antidepressants are the only things that can still help her. The remaining son looks at it all from a distance and watches over Grace while Keller is constantly absent. We also get a view of the other family Birch , especially Franklin Birch who helps Keller with his desperate plan afterwards, but their emotions are not as detailed unraveled as those of the Dover’s.

    It all begins with the disappearance of the daughters Anna and Joy when the two families celebrate Thanksgiving. The two girls had played that afternoon nearby a white mobile-home parked in front of the door which is now no longer visible. A police description is passed around and that same evening the mobile-home is spotted on a parking lot of a gas station. This is the moment Detective Loki comes into the picture. For me a huge achievement in terms of acting by Jake Gyllenhaal. Amazing how he portrays the inspector. The passion, the tics and the way he puts his teeth into the case, while sometimes it seems as if it doesn’t really interests him. How careless he reads text messages and seemingly almost writes down nothing. When Grace makes a remark about that, he starts writing something in his notebook in a careless way. The fact is, that so far he has solved all the cases that were given to him.

    The driver of the mobile home is trying to escape and eventually arrested. The car is searched but nothing is found. What remains is the meaningless and confused explanation of the twenty years old Alex Jones, who has a mental retardation and the IQ of a 10 year old. Due to a lack of evidence they need to release Alex, while Keller is firmly convinced that Alex is guilty and should not go unpunished. When Alex uses the sentence “They only cried when i left”, Keller loses control and forgets every Christian commandment although he normally holds on to that as a devout christian. He even exceeds the bounds of humanity in such a way that a return is impossible.
    And this is the most important moral question of this movie. Would you torture someone, you’re sure of he’s guilty, so you can find out the truth. As a father I am convinced that the disappearance of your daughter is the worst you can experience as a human being. An inhuman nightmare. And after hearing the pronounced sentence, which is open to interpretation, I also would be capable of doing such a thing. Even if it should turn out that the person is innocent.

    The course of the film is painfully and annoyingly slow. Maybe a cinematic portrayal of the excruciatingly long time parents of missing children need to endure while waiting for positive news. It’s also logical and insightful put together. Successively, we have to deal with the discovery of the remains of a child rapist in the basement of a priest, a copycat who eventually seizes the opportunity to shoot a bullet through his brains and the final denouement which wasn’t totally unexpected but because of the prior still surprising. Several times I read about the fact that there are quite a few holes in the scenario, and things turn out to be wrong. I can’t put my finger directly on any flaw in this movie. The mystery of the maze is that I think there really isn’t one but just a perception in the mind of both a retarded boy and an abused boy. The latter looked at this image (also the medallion of the deceased father) for years. The only thing that I was still wondering about are the snakes. Do they have a particular symbolic meaning ? Also the unprofessional actions of the law enforcement officers bothered me. The superintendent wasn’t much of a help in solving the case. And in such an important criminal case , I certainly wouldn’t leave the prime suspect unattended. And I think the aunts house would be searched through thoroughly.

    Final conclusion: In my opinion this was the best movie I watched in 2013. A poignant, terrible emotionally movie with a strong storyline, engaged in a cinematic depressed decor with its greyish tones and perpetual drizzle and carried by a top cast. It shows once again shows that there are totally sick minds that inhabit our planet, and that religion is used again as an excuse to condone it.

  • Produced by busy bee actor Mark Wahlberg and helmed by acclaimed Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, Prisoners is the type of vehicle that is perfect for fall movie going season. It was filmed in Georgia (which I believe, was made to look like a drab part of Pennsylvania), takes place during Thanksgiving, and harbors a non-stop sense of doom and gloom from its opening frame (I think the sun shined maybe once during the entire 2 and a half hour running time). Listen, I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you, this picture is long, feels long, and it really takes its time. Villeneuve uses old school filming techniques and doesn’t project anything flashy at all. The story, when it’s all said and done however, is somewhat conventional. Therefore, I think it was necessary for the events to be drawn out and dragged through the muck a little. Based on an initial viewing, I realized that Prisoners would have felt like a TV movie and/or a Law and Order episode if the running time was trimmed to say, an hour and a half. Thankfully, it comes off as an extended director’s cut (I’m not the only critic that felt this way) and that to a fault, is what makes the flick work. Watching it, I was reminded of a David Fincher film (without Fincher’s signature style though) and not just because it starred staggeringly disciplined actor Jake Gyllenhaal. Prisoners is basically a mild spawn of Fincher’s Se7en and Zodiac. It’s not quite as effectively creepy as those films, but it’s definitely good enough to recommend.

    Part kidnapping movie, part police detective character study, and part fatherly vigilante escapade, Prisoners tells the story of two families (neighbors from across the street) who get together on Thanksgiving day. The Birch’s (Franklin Birch played by Terrence Howard and Nancy Birch played by Viola Davis who barely registers here) and the Dover’s (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello as Keller and Grace Dover) have a relaxing, calming holiday until their respective daughters wander off and go missing. This then gets the attention of a socially inept area detective (Mr. Loki played with vigor by Jake Gyllenhaal) who garners almost complete control over handling the missing person’s case. As days go by and a potential suspect who might’ve taken the children gets bounced free, Jackman’s angry, frustrated character eventually decides to take the law into his own hands. As the film slowly creeps toward its conclusion, you get small twists and turns (as well as slightly minimal character revelations). You also get to see how important drawing mazes are when it comes to character motivation (I’ve seen all kinds of thrillers and this plot point was a first for me).

    On the acting front, one thing to notice when viewing Prisoners, is how it pushes aside the other performers in the main cast (Oscar nominees like Viola Davis and Terrence Howard) and puts its main focus on Jackman. Now I’m not saying that Hugh Jackman is a mediocre actor. I just don’t think he has the fiery chops to take on such a serious, dramatic role. His fault lies in the extreme overacting and preening to the audience. He seems to be saying, “hey look at me, I should be nominated for an Oscar!” With all the focus on him, the other player’s roles become seriously underdeveloped. It gets to the point where you hardly see them anymore. Using little of no background music, there are a lot of carefully set up scenes in Prisoners. To a fault, Jackman appears in almost all of them. Jake Gyllenhaal (Detective Loki), the only other actor receiving top billing, takes up almost as much of the shared time. The difference with Gyllenhaal is that he quietly out acts his co-star. His minutes on screen are underplayed but they feel more genuine, more studied (Gyllenhaal’s character’s facial ticks like eye blinking were a nice touch), and generally more effective. He seems born to play his role. Jackman on the other hand, has one persuasive agent (he probably needs to stick to his strengths which are the X-Men movies).

    As a fall release that feels as if it’s a journey or a metaphoric expedition, Prisoners has a teaser of an ending that may leave viewers holding their hands in the air. The over length may also be a factor when it comes to their varied attention spans. I however, found this exercise mildly absorbing and it was able to keep me interested. You may find the opening ten minutes a little muddled and weak in terms of set up, but after that, this exercise will place you in its grip (not too tightly) and not let go. Like I said earlier, Prisoners makes its case for being serviceable because it rides the wave of other crime dramas filling the screen with gloomy, overcast, and rain-drenched sequences. While watching it, you can almost sense that it does hold back just a little. This film doesn’t take too many risks and it may not haunt you like it should (Villeneuve’s direction is overly careful). But hey, it still gets by though mainly because of said look and Gyllenhaal’s icy magnitude. All in all, if you like crime thrillers that take their time and don’t try to jerk you around with the camera, Prisoners might just set you “free.”

    Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

    Check out other reviews on my blog:

  • This may sound obvious or trite, but it truly is a parent’s worst nightmare: Your child just disappears, suddenly and without a trace. That’s the scenario in the crime drama/thriller “Prisoners” (R, 2:33).

    When the young daughters of two neighbors go out to play after their families share Thanksgiving dinner together and then no one can find the girls, the panic is immediate and gut-wrenching. The helplessness of these two sets of parents (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello as Keller and Grace Dover and Terrence Howard and Viola Davis as Franklin and Nancy Birch) is compounded when the police release a person of interest named Alex Jones (played brilliantly by Paul Dano) for lack of evidence. Despite the fact that Alex has the mental capacity of a 10-year-old, Keller is convinced that Alex knows something. He takes matters into his own hands and goes much farther than even the most devoted of parents could imagine. Keller is willing to do anything, and I mean ANYTHING, to extract the information he needs to find these two little girls. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is doing what he can to solve the case, and even seems willing to go a little outside the law to do it, but keeps coming up empty.

    The tension gradually but steadily builds as these parents know that time is running out for their missing children. Clues in the case are scant and hints as to where this story is going are there on the screen, but seem too trivial to matter – until they do. The plot twists and ultimate reveals are shocking, but the film’s real power is in the questions it forces us to ask – and keep asking after the film is over. The script is smart enough to provide us sufficient closure to justify the emotional investment we’ve made in this story, but still leaves it open-ended enough to give us something to think about after the credits roll. The unusually long run time may make you feel like a prisoner, but the complex, well-directed and very well-acted story (mostly) justifies the film’s length. “B+”

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