As September rolls along, we’ll start to see a lot of moody, character-driven movies prepping us for the Oscar movie season. Prisoners definitely fits into that category.
As Prisoners begins, we are introduced to two families celebrating Thanksgiving together. After their two respective daughters go for a walk around the neighborhood. One of the fathers, Keller (Hugh Jackman) gets panicked and wonders what is taking the girls such a long time. The girls are nowhere to be seen. Neither is a mysterious RV that was parked just down the street.
The cops, led by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) quickly find the RV and its driver, Alex (Paul Dano) in a gas station parking lot. After a failed suicide attempt, Alex is apprehended and questioned by Loki about the girls’ disappearance. The problem is, there is literally no evidence to hold Alex for the kidnapping.
Keller’s marriage and mental stability start falling apart and he is urgent to find any trace of his young daughter, so he takes justice into his own hands and captures Alex and tortures him, hoping he’ll break and tell him where the kidnapped girls are. Meanwhile, as Detective Loki is gradually making progress on the case, he is also getting suspicious of Keller’s behavior.
I won’t give any more information (that was all in the trailer), but you should know that there is much more to the movie than the synopsis described. Just know that it’s a heavy experience and you’ll need to take some “uppers” afterwards. But that doesn’t take away from the quality of the movie. It is beautifully filmed and really puts the emphasis on the characters’ progression/deterioration.
This is truly an actors’ movie. Forget Les Miserables, this is Hugh Jackman’s best work. He disappears in the role of redneck dad who has always tried to keep his family prepared for the worst crisis imaginable. But when his own daughter is taken, he has to try to take control of the situation, even if that means treating a suspect in inhumane ways. And here’s the thing, despite a few cryptic whispers from Alex, neither Keller nor the audience are quite sure that Alex is actually guilty. The father that shows a conscience in regards to the torture is Franklin (played by Terence Howard). I’m not sure if his role is meant to be subtle, or that Terence Howard is just the weak link in the movie. He is clearly outshined by Viola Davis, who plays his wife.
Jake Gyllenhaal is a take-it-or-leave-it actor for me. I’ve never been drawn to a movie because he was in it. However, seeing his detached detective is worth the admission. He dedicates himself to a imperfect character with ticks and strange mannerisms throughout the movie.
Honestly, with a cast comprised of Jackman, Gyllenhaal, Howard, Davis, Dano, Maria Bello and Melissa Leo, it’s hard to have a bad movie. I’m excited to see more of what director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies) has in store from here.
Now, a word of warning to movie fans looking for a fun ride. This is not your kind of movie. Prisoners makes no apologies as you view the heartbreak of not knowing where your child is, combined with the breakdown of civility. I don’t think this will make much of an impact come awards season, but many of the stars deserve some recognition.
I didn’t have any expectations for Prisoners and it kind of came out of nowhere. It may not be a day one theater experience, but if you have some time to kill (152 minutes) and want an intense well-acted movie, Prisoners fits the bill.