Review - Prisoners

There is a first time for everything. In this case, it was the first time that an employee at the cinema had warned me that a film will leave me emotionally exhausted. 

Prisoners was always going to be an emotional ride due to its subject matter but I have to wonder whether I saw the same film that everyone else did. Yes it was emotional but it just did not seem to hit me as hard as it did others.

Prisoners follows the desperate search for two young girls after they are abducted on Thanksgiving. Both the Dover's and Birch's family lives are turned upside down when Anna Dover and Joy Birch both go missing. It is every parents worst nightmare.

What is interesting about Prisoners is that it doesn't follow the usual story of a family waiting on news from the police, instead the grief if so much for them that they have to take action themselves to find out where their children are.

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is a man not only driven by the hope of finding his daughter but also by the blame that his wife Grace (Maria Bello) lays upon him for the disappearance of their daughter. 

When the police have no option but to let prime suspect Alex Jones (Paul Dano) go, Keller takes matters into his own hands and holds Alex captive, brutally torturing him unless he gives up the location of the missing girls.

Keller lets Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) in on his interrogation and while they don't agree with it at first, they finally decide that Keller must be allowed to do whatever it takes to get the location of the girls, no matter how far he has to go.

With this all going on, there is also a police investigation into the abduction being led by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) who, like Keller, is determined to get to the bottom of the case.

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) & Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal)

Prisoners is very much a character-driven film. The subject of child abduction allows access to the multiple layers of each character. The performances are spot on and believable, with Jackman and Gyllenhaal giving their best performances for a while.

I totally forgot that Melissa Leo was in this film and barely recognised her as Holly Jones, the aunt of suspect Alex Jones. She gives a creepy turn in this role and is good enough to stop the ending from becoming a complete farce.

Denis Villeneuve directs with a deliberate slower pace to build up the unsettling behaviour of some of the characters, especially Keller. However, with a running time of 153 minutes I did start to feel as if I had been sitting in the cinema for four hours.

The biggest problem I had with Prisoners was the twist and its ending. I will not ruin either for anyone but the twist, as I alluded to when mentioning Melissa Leo's performance, was in danger of spoiling the film and the ending neither satisfied me or anyone else sitting in the cinema with me. 

That is the reason why Prisoners  was marked down by me. The rest of the film was great but I just thought that the twist and ending cheapened it a little. However, Prisoners is saved for me by its great performances and solid storytelling, for the most part.

Verdict: 3.5/5


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