Ok, I’m not a parent, but for those of your that are, imagine your kid goes out to play and when you expect them back, they aren’t there. In fact, they are no where to be found. Gone. No idea where they are, how long they’ve been missing, not a trace….How would you feel? What lengths would you go to in order to get answers?
Ok, I’m not a parent, but for those of your that are, imagine your kid goes out to play and when you expect them back, they aren’t there. In fact, they are no where to be found. Gone. No idea where they are, how long they’ve been missing, not a trace. A couple days go by, not a clue, except one vehicle that no one is familiar with was seen near your child last time anyone saw them. The police have nothing but the driver of that vehicle as the only possible suspect, but they can’t pin anything on him. How would you feel? What lengths would you go to in order to get answers?
Such is the premise of Prisoners. Keller and Grace Dover (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello) and Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) are old friends and neighbors. They’re together on Thanksgiving and their daughters, Anna and Joy go out to play. And they never come back. The police had to let their one suspect go for lack of evidence, and though everyone is crushed and frustrated by this, Keller Dover is not prepared to sit and do nothing. He answers that very question of how far would you go to protect your familiy.
With the summer season over we are now into the onset of Oscar movie season. As one of the early contenders, Prisoners is a film with weighty issues to ponder, and some strong performances, particularly from Jackman. The plot itself has some familiar elements, but the twisty paths it takes in the process are interesting and they keep us guessing right along with detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) until just about the end. It’s nice to not have a thriller/mystery like this all figured out in the first thirty minutes. I feel like that’s been happening a lot lately. But Prisoners kept me thinking all the way through. Well, there was a few minutes at one point where I thought, “Yeah, maybe two hours and 23 minutes IS a bit long for this film”, but in the end it was worth it.
They do an efficient job of introducing us to the characters here. Things start off happily enough, as Keller and Grace Dover and their two kids go down the street to old friends Franklin and Nancy’s house for an afternoon Thanksgiving meal. Then the kids go missing, and suddenly, the film takes on a very dark tone. And rightfully so. It’s not like child abduction is fodder for musical comedy. Well, my macabre sense of humor notwithstanding, anyway. Oh right, like any of you would really miss Honey boo-boo.
But even her mom would would go to extreme measures to locate her daughter, right? Right…? Ok, well I’m only guessing here, but you know what I mean. So let’s face it, this movie gets dark. There are some pretty gruesome images in this, so take that into account.
The performances are solid in Prisoners. Hugh Jackman is intense and carries much of the film, along with Gyllenhaal’s detective Loki. Two men that have the same goal, but feel constantly at odds with each other. Paul Dano is also very good as Alex, the man Dover abducts and tortures in order to find out where his daughter is. Everyone else is also good, however, most of the other characters have less screen time, Terrence Howard and Viola Davis in particular, though they do make the most of their roles. Maria Bello is a better actress than the material they give her; the fragile wife that breaks down and can’t accept what’s happening so she spends much of her time in bed on sleeping pills.
But despite some of these oft-used elements, there is plenty of redirection and guessing to keep you watching closely. Prisoners is full with the issue of moral ambiguity. And some will undoubtedly connect this film with things like government use of water-boarding and the like. But Prisoners doens’t really take sides on these issues. They simply present events and let the viewer decide whether anyone is right or wrong. And I thnk that’s fine. It doesn’t have to take a firm stand, leave that to each one of us individually. In the meantime, Prisoners is a film gives us a pretty gripping police procedural mystery that kept me entertained. Just about four kittenhands from me.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, glad that Halloween’s a-comin’!