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Movie Review: Prisoners




Prisoners (2013) is a crime drama directed by Denis Villeneve, a newcomer to big budget films, and written by Aaron Guzikowski. The ensemble cast stars Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano




The story starts with Keller and Grace Dover (Jackman and Bello) who are over their friends Franklin and Nancy Birch (Howard and Davis) house for a thanksgiving dinner when both families’ daughters go missing. Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) is assigned to the case but the only evidence he can go on is an RV, owned by Alex Jones (Paul Dano), which was seen before the girls disappeared. Alex becomes the prime suspect and, in the eyes of Keller, the person who kidnapped his daughter. Keller decides to take the law into his own hands when Alex is released to his aunt Holly Jones (Leo) due to lack of proof against him.




All the cast gives top notch performances but it is Jackman who really stands out with the desperation of his rage. He adds to the realism of the movie because we can truly sympathize with him at first. Keller is a man who is prepared for any situation so it really devastates him that he could not prevent this from happening. We see him descend into darkness as he goes to extreme lengths to find his daughter.




The intriguing mystery has a lot of twists and turns, some of which can be picked up on and others that come as a complete shock. It builds slowly which only adds to the gripping tension. The dark nature of the story brings some moments where you might want to look away and you may not leave the theater feeling good about life. The story forces you to think about the moral ambiguity of the character’s choices.  There is no “black and white” here and the line that separates the typical “bad guys” and “good guys” is distorted to the point of being non-existent.




Rodger Deakins, whose past work includes The Shawshank Redemption, Skyfall, and No Country for Old Men (All of which were nominated for Oscars for Best Cinematography), provides great cinematography using objects within the scene to light it.  One standout scene is an arrest early on in the film where flashlights and police cherries are used to add bursts of color and create striking silhouettes in the darkness and rain. Another is a visually appealing scene is a gathering at night where candles fill the neighborhood with a soft orange glow.




The movie runs long at 2 hours and 26 minutes. However no scene feels obviously superfluous.  If you go into this movie expecting a typical crime thriller with many action fuelled chases then you will be disappointed. Instead you get a quiet, gripping, and intricate mystery filled with suspense.




Recommended if:


  • You enjoy slow building and complex mysteries
  • Can handle scenes of torture
  • Are in the mood for a character study that is not a feel good film
  • Want something more than a good versus evil story




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