As a thriller, this film follows the basic genre conventions. It's tense, mysterious, and occasionally compelling. However, it seems the film's ambitions are beyond a basic genre film. A lot of the film's exposition establishes Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) as a survivalist -- a right-wing, anti-establishmentarian -- in order to explain his extreme behavior later. But this theme remains undeveloped. I can imagine a good film that questions whether a man's personal moral compass should override the moral compass that most reasonable people agree to, but by the second act, the film devolves into torture porn and the generic dramatic questions overtake the film's philosophical musings.
Jackman has never been an impressive actor, and what depth we see in Keller comes from the script, not his performance. The same can be said of Jake Gyllenhaal, and unfortunately the plot renders Maria Bello catatonic halfway through the film. The best performance is by Paul Dano, who never fails to impress.
Overall, as a thriller, Prisoners fits the genre, but as anything more, it's close but not quite.
A depressive tone and unrelenting sense of dread are hard to shake. Hugh Jackman gives a fierce, disturbing, career best turn here, and Gyllenhaal deserves an Oscar for his twitchy, intense work. He's never been better. If the film's conclusion seems a bit cold and unrewarding, it's simply because Villeneuve's film is most interested in the buildup; the dank trek through suburbia at it's most horrifying that refuses to break from it's established nihilism. Such brilliant execution and moral complexity works wonders in a film that is on a par with genre greats "Gone Baby Gone" and TV's The Killing.
"Prisoners" is a bold film that stands on it's own two feet. It is a little too long, but it's Villeneuve's dedication to "taking it slow" that renders this unrelenting picture so memorable, and one of 2013's very best.
The cinematography stands out too, and of course, as the credits started rolling, Roger A. Deakins' name appears.
After a thanksgiving meal, two young girls go missing. The fathers of the girls, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard) refuse to accept the procedure of the police in their investigation and take it upon themselves to be very active in the manhunt. When the main suspect (Paul Dano) is released from custody, Keller takes extreme measures in finding the answers to his daughters whereabouts.
Set in a cold, working class, Northwestern town, the look and feel for "Prisoners" is established from the off-set. It's harsh and bleak environment is reflective of the characters that inhabit it and Villeneuve wastes no time in depicting it's grim tale of child abduction. In it's early stages and premise, both of the lead actors reminded me very much of two Sean Penn films: Jackman's tortured father resembled that of Penn's character in "Mystic River" and Gyllenhaal's doggedly determined police officer echoed the work of Jack Nicholson in Penn's marvellous directorial outing "The Pledge". Like these aforementioned films, "Prisoners" benefits from being anchored by these powerful leads. I'm not normally a fan of Jackman but the man cannot be faulted here, in his ferocious turn as a protective father, stricken helpless and with no control over his situation or grief. His furious and emotional outbursts are entirely believable and Gyllenhaal's subtle ticks and repressed display of a very similar character compliments the work of Jackman. On the outskirts, an impressive supporting cast are assembled in Paul Dano; Oscar winner Melissa Leo and Nominees Viola Davis and Terrence Howard, although the very talented likes of Davis and Howard are somewhat wasted in thankless roles that don't utilise their talents to the full.
In capturing the stark environment, cinematographer Roger Deakins delivers some sublime work. In a time of recession, this small town has little or no future and it's grim reality and sense of desperation and paranoia oozes from every pore. Villeneuve also cleverly plays with time; the town has come to a standstill during the investigation and even though every day counts for the grief stricken families, time seems laborious and torturous. The twists and turns of events unfold at their own pace making this, for the most part, a very tight and involving thriller. However, at two and half hours, the film is a little overlong with the final 30 minutes consisting of some tenuous and cliched plot developments and a few too many red herrings but these only stand out because the film is so strong up until then.
A solid and unrelenting thriller that has some uncomfortable moments and an ever shifting moral compass. "Prisoners" is the perfect title in describing the entrapment - in one way or another - of each of the characters but when it comes to the audience, director Villeneuve doesn't take any.
Very Good Film! This was one intense movie-going experience. Throughout the entire running time of the movie, the suspense never lets up. The plot is a wonderful puzzle, unraveling slowly to reveal hidden layers of depth and complexity. The acting was wonderful, emotional and nuanced, with some unforgettable moments. The director does an excellent job of keeping you invested in the film emotionally even through some intensely violent scenes. Its dreary setting provides no comfort, but goes hand and hand with the narrative. This film may not be for those faint of heart but should be a must see for most viewers.
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?