Prisoners is an American thriller that tackles every parents worse nightmare and what horrors they are prepared to commit for the sake of their children.
After their daughters go missing during Thanksgiving, two families the Dovers (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello) and the Birch (Terrance Howard and Viola Davis) are looking for answers. When Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) releases a suspect Alex (Paul Dano) due to lack of evidence, Keller Dover (Jackman) decides to take the law into his own hands to find his missing daughter.
From the moment the girls goes missing the tension in Prisoners never lets up as we follow Detective Loki in his investigation and Keller as he conducts his own source of interrogation. The audience watches as Keller’s techniques to extract information from his prisoner escalates to the point that you’re not sure whose side you’re suppose to be on. The film doesn’t give you any easy answers instead posing a series of questions to its audience. If your child went missing what would you do to go them back? Would you resort to torture? Is Keller justified in what he’s doing? If Alex is guilty does that make Keller’s actions acceptable? Theres also the matter that Alex has the IQ of a ten-year old, so can he be held responsible for anything he may have done? It’s a tough watch, and although not particularly gory, there is some serious violence and threat involved which makes for uncomfortable viewing.
The cast that has been assembled is incredible. However at times it feels like the female cast members are a bit wasted. Viola Davis at least gets a few meaty scenes to get her teeth into (and anyone who saw her stirling work in Doubt knows that she only needs one scene to grab everyone’s attention). Maria Bello fares less well, with her character mostly drugged out by grief for the majority of the movie.
The male cast fare better. Howard is great as the reluctant father pulled into Jackman’s schemes although his character does get sidelined as the film gets closer to the end. Dano is brilliant as main suspect Alex, able to turn from creepy, to vulnerable and childlike within the same scene. The standouts however are Gyllenhaal and Jackman. Both are men are desperate to find the girls using very different means. Jackman’s performance in particular is mesmerizing, both men deserve to be showered in awards come the Oscar season, whether Prisoners is too grim for the voting committee is another matter.
What makes Prisoners such a good thriller is that is can raise these serious issues about morality and tell an engaging story at the same time. You are kept on edge the whole way through, hoping some kind of happy ending can be salvaged somehow among the darkness.
Rating- 4/5 -an uncompramising thriller about the horrors people do featuring fantastic performances from Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal.