When Keller and Grace Dover (Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello), and their two children Ralph and Anna go to spend Thanksgiving with their close family friends Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard, Viola Davis), as well as their own two children Eliza and Joy. When Anna and Joy decide to go back to the Dover house to retrieve a special whistle of Anna’s, the two girls don’t return. When they don’t return, the two families immediately scope the neighborhood in hopes of finding them. When the two oldest children say that they saw the two girls playing around a suspicious camper earlier when they were walking together, a report is made. Enter Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal). Upon hearing the news he comes across the camper driven by Alex Jones (Paul Dano). Upon investigation Loki states that Jones doesn’t have the mental capability to perform such an abduction. Jones is then picked up by his aunt Holly (Melissa Leo). Keller refuses to believe that Jones didn’t have anything to do with it and that he wasn’t working alone. While Loki continues his search for the missing girls, Keller takes more drastic and horrific matter in order to find his daughter.
Prisoners, directed by Denis Villeneuve, is an intense and heart-wrenching story about every parents worst nightmare, and the lengths people will go to for answers and justice. It is one thrill ride that hooks you never lets go. The film goes through many twists and turns and heart-pounding moments, particularly one involving Gyllenhaal’s characters and a floor full of totes that reminds us of “the box” scene from Se7en. But what stands out the most about Prisoners are the performances and how character-driven it is. Hugh Jackman gives the performance of his career as a father who is driven to drastic measure to ensure that he finds his daughter. He shows his deranged side as well as his devastated and vulnerable side so flawlessly. Maria Bello brings the most heart-wrenching moments of the film as the grieving wife and mother. We watch as her character goes from hopeful, to denial, to depressed, and finally to becoming delusional. Terrence Howard is a man torn. He knows what Jackman’s character is up to, and you can tell that he is torn between doing the right thing and letting his feelings aside, as well as wanting to be there for his family. Howard and Davis, while very under-used, as basically the conscience of the story. Gyllenhaal stars as the Detective who has never left a case unsolved, and through his journey to find the girls and the answers to their disappearance it slowly begins to take it’s toll on him. You can see through Gyllenhaal’s performance how drained but yet determined Loki is becoming. As the film goes on, we watch and see how the effect of the girls’ disappearance begins effect the characters in many ways, and the cast delivers it flawlessly. As the viewer sees this, we feel ourselves beginning to grieve and hurt for these characters, and it does a solid job of keeping everything so unknown that we have no idea how things will end up as much as the characters do. However despite all of this, the film runs much longer than it really needed to. 2 hours and 30 minutes. Does this hurt the film massively? No. We are kept engaged the whole time with the mystery, but you feel yourself thinking, “okay, this has to be over soon”.
Prisoners is a powerhouse of a thriller filled with some of the best performances in one film, characters we really feel for and get in touch with them emotionally, and filled with many thrills and twists that leaves your heart pounding. Despite it’s very long running time, I still highly recommend it. Though it may be hard movie to watch for parents.
My rating 9/10