Two families are facing one of their worst nightmares. On thanksgiving day Anna Dover (Erin Gerasimovich) and Joy Birch (Kyla Drew Simmons) go missing. At first the girls are thought to be just hiding, but as minutes turns to hours panic sets in for the families. The only lead on where the girls might be a run down RV that was parked down the street earlier and that the girls were warned against playing on by Anna’s older brother Ralph (Dylan Minnette). Heading the investigation is Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), who has closed every case he has ever been assigned. Loki arrests Alex Jones, the driver of the RV, but can’t hold him for lack of evidence and because Alex seemingly has the IQ of a 10 year old. As the police follow various leads and days pass, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), never one for sitting around and doing nothing takes matters into his own hands. But how far is too far for a father desperate to protect his family and save his little girl? Also starring Viola David, Maria Bellow, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Zoe Borde, Wayne Duvall, David Dastmalchian.
Prisoners is an emotionally exhausting and morally disturbing film that will give any parent nightmares but it is certainly the best mystery, suspense film to grace the Hollywood screens in recent memory. To be honest, I was skeptical about Prisoners when I saw its 153 minute running time. A two and half hour drama doesn’t bode well for my movie viewing pleasure, based on experience at least. I, however, missed the fact that this was also a mystery, and the mystery element plays heavily into the film make no mistake. I won’t get too specific in my review because I don’t want to give any spoilers that might ruin it for you. Essentially every time I thought they had everything figured out the story would throw another curve ball in to make you do a double take. Typically I can see an end coming from a mile away. It’s something my friends and family hate about watching movies with me. This time however, I wasn’t able to predict the end. Looking back after the fact the signs to solve the mystery are fairly obvious, particularly in one scene, but you are so caught up in the emotional turmoil of the characters and the disturbing scenes before you that you just don’t see the answer to it all.
Hugh Jackman delivers an award-winning performance that will shake you to your very core, especially if you are a parent. Gyllenhaal is fantastic, although Jackman certainly steals the show for me. The rest of the cast is equally admirably, particularly Paul Dano who plays Alex Jones the would be kidnapper. He consistently has you struggling between feeling sorry for him and hating him all the same time. Overall Prisoners is a dark movie with a dark story. There are elements of the film that remind you of past mystery movies and thriller films that have gone before but since I can’t put my finger on which ones in particular that means this is an exact duplicate so that is a good thing. Still if you have seen enough movies you will recognize the look and feel of this one for sure. The everyday movie goer won’t experience this however and will likely find it more enjoyable. Although for this movie I am not sure enjoyable is the right word to use. Prisoners is interesting to watch, contemplative and will haunt you right down to your core but it isn’t what you expect in the way of entertainment. Prisoners goes beyond entertainment to another level of film making where they want you to actually think instead of just numbing your mind with raunchy images or stupid dialogue. There is more to great cinema than that and Prisoners takes the time, even if it is a long time, to remind us of that.
9/10 Stars – If you can make it past the length of the film you will experience a disturbing and emotional story that will give any parent nightmares for days to come.
I will start out by saying I love watching movies like this! A mystery with controversial topics that instills fear and thrills all at the same time. If someone walked up and asked me to sum up Prisoners in 1 sentence, I’d answer “Mystic River meets Zodiac.” Both of the movies I just mentioned are longer mystery movies with GREAT stories that revolve around a central disturbing theme that create a certain melodramatic feeling. Prisoners is able to set the same kind of mood with a winter setting in what looks like the upper Mid-Eastern United States where it is cold and rainy with plenty of pine trees and wooded areas. The buildings are run down and so are the people. In short, this is not a place of luxury!
Enough about setting (which sets the mood just right) because the real greatness of the movie come from the actors! I would not be surprised if this movie is honored with many award nominations come this winter. Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Melissa Leo and Paul Dano all do SUPERB jobs with creating the tension and powerful emotions. They carry this movie! Now, I know some of you are thinking, “how can you say they carried this movie when you said the story was great??” Well the story is great, and very engaging! My eyes never left the screen, but without their convincing performances, the story would be simpler and less mysterious. In fact, the story is the only (small) beef I have with the whole thing. I like mysteries that as the story is told, you can see the direction the story is leading the audience. You know how people say “I think I figured it out!” in regards to mystery stories?? Well… I never felt that enough clues were given in order to piece the puzzle together ourselves. I’m not saying the movie is being told wrong per say, it’s just not in my style. I like to “think” along the way during mysteries films. Prisoners felt like it was just “telling a story” rather than “giving me clues” to the mystery. To me, this is very MINOR compared to what the whole movie has to offer, and just like fellow 2013 movies Mud and The Place Beyond the Pines, Prisoners creates an atmosphere with controversy, disturbing ideas and troubling characters. Must see for 2013!
9/10 Stars – Definitely in my top movies of the year! A great dark and mysterious thriller with an intense ending!
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