Film Review: Prisoners

prisoners“How far would you go to protect your child? Keller Dover (Jackman) is facing every parent’s worst nightmare. His six-year-old daughter, Anna, is missing, together with her young friend, Joy, and as minutes turn to hours, panic sets in. The only lead is a dilapidated RV that had earlier been parked on their street. Heading the investigation, Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) arrests its driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), but a lack of evidence forces the only suspect’s release. Knowing his child’s life is at stake, the frantic Dover decides he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands. But just how far will this desperate father go to protect his family? “Source

Prisoners is an intense film that takes itself a tad too seriously. It essentially asks the question of how far would you go to save your child if they go missing, but isn’t focused enough to answer that question.

Villeneuve is a master director, and Prisoners is set in the bleakest of towns. The shots are sometimes hauntingly beautiful and gloomy and the film is visually representative of the tone of the film.

The stand out performance in Prisoners is from Jake Gyllenhaal, who approaches his characterisation of Detective Loki in a subtle and multi faceted way. We learn almost nothing about Loki throughout the film, except subtle hints about his past in a foster home but Gyllenhaal brings the character to life, and he is easily the most interesting character in the film. Hugh Jackman is transformed as Keller Donner, but his constant shouting becomes mundanely repetitive as the film continues and lacks the emotional pull that a character in such a situation should have had. His obsession, despite the contrary evidence, with the man he suspects of the kidnapping of his daughter is also repetitive and often stalls the excitement of the action scene.

Prisoners is completely unpredictable. The plot twists and turns and you are never sure of where its going. This makes the action sequences compelling and absorbing and some scenes are downright shocking. The thrilling atmosphere is enhanced by the excellent score that really ramps up the tension and many audience members were on the edge of their seats during some reveals.

The crux of the film is whether is it ever okay to take the law into your own hands to save your family. Prisoners attempts to make us feel conflicted for Donner, however as the film drew on his actions seemed less morally justifiable and less,to a certain extent, plausible. In the end, Prisoners doesn’t really answer its question – there is no repercussions for Donner or really anyone else and so the film feels oddly incomplete and unsatisfying. However, it is saved by some superb acting from Gyllenhaal and some truly enthralling action scenes.

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