Prisoners is set in Pennsylvania (it was shot in Georgia), my aunt turned to me at one scene during prisoners and said sarcastically “Gosh, I’m moving to Pennsylvania, it’s so damn beautiful”. The weather in prisoners very much matches the mood of the movie, heavy rains mixed with occasional snowfall.
Its thanksgiving and the Dover family go to their neighbour’s house for dinner; their friends
they’re having dinner with are the Birch’s. The Dover family consists of Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), Father and carpenter, the Mother, Grace Dover (Mario Bello), Son, Ralph (Dylan Minnette), and 6 year old daughter, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich).
The Birch’s are also a family of four, father, Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard), Mother, Nancy Birch (Viola Davis), oldest Daughter, Eliza (Zoe Borde) and youngest, also 6 year old Daughter Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons).
Prisoners’ gets moving fairly quickly; within 15 minutes the two youngest daughters of each family have gone missing and are presumed to have been kidnapped. Almost immediately Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is put on the case; Det. Loki has solved every case he has ever been put on.
Before dinner, the kids had noticed a rundown RV parked outside a nearby house that the youngest two kids had been playing on. Tracking down this RV leads the detective to the first suspect, Alex Jones (Paul Dano). Alex has the IQ of a ten year old, he doesn’t speak much and when he does he is very quiet. Alex lives with his Aunt; Holly Jones (Mellissa Leo), Holly and her husband took Alex in at a young age, when his parents died.
When Keller Dover (Jackman), feels that the police and detective Loki, aren’t doing a good job, he takes matters into his own hands…
If I go any deeper into the plot I would be verging into spoiler territory, and it could be very easy to spoil this movie. I will include a brief spoiler section at the end of my review.
Prisoners’ subject matter is heavy, and at times it is hard to watch, occasionally very hard to watch. My Fiancée couldn’t watch many scenes, and gave me many angry stares as if she was blaming me for the movies harshness. For its many disturbing sequences I would have a hard time recommending this movie to some people.
If you can handle most things a movie can throw at you, then I would recommend this movie to you. Prisoners is, above everything, entertaining. I was barely bored or fidgety; I was completely engrossed in the story in front of me.
One of the most engrossing aspects of the movie is the acting; Jake Gyllenhaal is completely believable as a detective who is so deep in the case that it keeps him up at night. There is a very effective scene in Prisoners where Hugh Jackman’s character is not pleased with the detectives work and gets angry at him, he blames him for the girls still being missing and he storms out. The viewer’s know how hard Detective Loki has worked on this case, and the look on his face after the father leaves the room is painful.
Hugh Jackman is pretty great in Prisoners also, although he resorts to shouting and yelling many of his scenes. If Gyllenhaal is the standout actor in Prisoners, then poor Paul Dano is bound to be forgotten for another brilliant performance; Dano is pretty damn brilliant.
Gyllenhaal and Jackman (and Dano) occupy most of the screen time in Prisoners; I should have expected this when the poster has only Jackman and Gyllenhaal on it. Both of the mothers, Mario Bello and Viola Davis, and the other father, Terrence Howard, get pushed to the side. These three characters get shafted so much so that you almost forget about them, during and after the movie; definitely a flaw of the movie.
The cinematography in Prisoners is beautiful. Roger Deakins, the cinematographer behind last year’s amazingly shot “Skyfall”, gives this movie his wonderful touch.
Prisoners is a suspenseful, tense and raw cop thriller, it takes the best parts of movies like Zodiac, Gone Baby Gone and TV shows like Law and Order. One great aspect of the movie is its mystery; it keeps you guessing until (literally) the credits roll. For a movie released in the early Fall, where many bad movies are dumped after the summer blockbuster run, I am very thankful for how entertaining and good it is.
I usually wait until the end of my review before I give my rating, but seeing as how much praise I’ve given Prisoners I will state now that I am giving the movie a B+. That is definitely a passing grade, but I’ve got enough issues with Prisoners that I can’t give it an A.
The title Prisoners means so much to the movie, much more beyond kidnappings, this movie explores themes of imprisoment to deep levels. Although, Many of the movies themes are lost in the shuffle, it focuses on the human condition and how people react in certain situations, and how far people will go. Prisoners tries to say so much that it begins to become too much, and the movie becomes just entertaining instead of meaningful.
Prisoners has a runtime of 153 minutes, that’s two and a half hours of movie. Prisoners could lose about a half hour or even more and be a better, tighter movie for it. There are unnecessary scenes, scenes of people walking to their cars, driving, walking around; it’s painstakingly meticulous at times.
While it may interesting, there are times where we watch Jake Gyllenhaal chase leads that turn out to be dead ends, scenes like these could be cut and explained in passing or in a quick expostion scenes.
For all of the movies thoroughness, there are at least two scenes I remember where characters gloss over important plot points. Characters just say something to other characters as if they were asking how there day was, quite baffling. I can’t outright say which scenes these are because they are spoilers.
Prisoners is not melodramatic at all, if anything it’s the opposite, whatever that is. Prisoners is so abrasive and aggressive that it completely erases any touching moments that this movie could have had. That may sound cryptic, but I’ll get to that more in spoilers.
I have more to say about Prisoners, but I have to save it for spoilers. So unfortunately I will “end” my spoiler free review here. If you haven’t seen Prisoners I urge you to not read past the spoiler warning.
Also, in the spoiler section, I have a question to ask my readers about the movie. Something that confused me, so if you can answer the question tweet me! Thanks!
Let me first expand on some points I made earlier, I don’t want to leave myself unexplained. First of all, I’ll explain the two scenes I can remember where the movie glosses over important details instead of explaining to us how or what happened. The first is when one of the detectives states that the Birch’s daughter has been found. This is a HUGE plot point and the movie just basically blurts it out, obviously later on we learn how she escaped but this moment was almost laughable to me.
The other moment I remember is when they’re in the process of interviewing the man who had all of the clothes and snakes in crates. One of the detectives is basically talking over coffee about how he confessed to murdering these girls! That is another HUGE plot development, why didn’t the movie show him saying this or tell us in a better way! Obviously the girls weren’t dead at this point and the guy was lying but it still frustrated me.
When I say there is no emotion in this movie, I am referring specifically to the moments in which
both daughters are found, we are deprived of seeing the parents getting to see their children for the first times or them hearing the news of their daughters being found. Showing these moments could have only deepened the characters of Mario Bello, Viola Davis and Terrence Howard but for some reason these scenes were left out.
The movie is so violent and rough that there is almost no emotion to these characters. Mario Bello’s character slips into a deep depression and is so knocked out on pills that she is barely even a character in the movie. Viola Davis’ character, who ends up being the only stable person in this movie, has one scene where she is able to show of some emotion, but it is overshadowed by the image of Paul Dano’s horribly disfigured face.
The character of Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard) is completely confusing his character is so undeveloped and lacking in morals that scenes with him suffer. Franklin is asked by Keller (Jackman) to help him torcher Alex (Dano) and Franklin almost out right refuses; cut to a scene where Franklin hold Alex as Keller wails on him. How confusing is that? Between Prisoners and Crash, Terrence Howard is getting pretty good at playing the most pathetic, weakest, black men I’ve ever seen.
I have to say, Melissa Leo is great, basically unrecognizable as this older lady. A little distracting though, if you know Melissa Leo and know she is an Oscar winning actress, you can probably assume she is in on the kidnappings. Why would they put Melissa Leo in this tiny role if she didn’t have something to do with it?
If you’re looking hard enough though, this movie lets you piece the mystery together yourself, I know my fiancée and picked up on some things the movie was laying down. Prisoners really does come together like a puzzle at its end.
I should talk about the very end for a minute; I think it’s safe to assume that Detective Loki would find Keller. Let’s be honest, he’s obsessed with details and this case. I don’t think Loki is going to assume a whistle blowing on this property, where people are kidnapped and bodies are buried, is nothing. He’ll investigate and most definitely find him. With a 153 minute movie, you don’t think the director could have just thrown a final scene of the Detective finding the father?
Last of all, the man with all of the snakes and kids clothes in the crates, where does he come into the story? Did he have any part in the kidnapping of these kids? I found the movie to be unclear on this! If you could tweet me (@mitchydaily) the answer that would be so great! Thanks!!
Also, does anyone else agree that this poster of Hugh Jackman does not look like Hugh Jackman??