Prisoners (2013)

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrance Howard, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano


Keller Dover (Jackman) is a God-fearing family man who runs a less-than-successful carpentry business.  His family, attends a Thanksgiving party at the Birch’s, their neighbors, house.  While running home to retrieve a red whistle, Anna Dover and Joy Birch are abducted.  Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) is assigned to the case, and Alex Jones (Dano) becomes a person of interest because his RV was seen parked in the neighborhood, then was gone after the abduction.

Dover and Loki each try to piece together the abduction in their own way.  Loki through regular police investigation procedures, Dover taking the law into his own hands, even bringing Franklin Birch (Howard) into the mess for a time.

Aaron Guzikowski’s script for this film is excellent.  While the actors and actresses deserve a lot of credit, they have some great source material to work with.  As the plot unfolded throughout the film, I found myself wondering who was responsible for what and how everything fit together.  As with a good script and story, the pieces fell into place at the end, and the plot kept my attention throughout the film.

In addition to a great script, Villeneuve does a great job with the cinematography and sound effects.  There’s just enough suspense throughout to keep the audience on guard.  Again, the film kept my attention and had me guessing and wondering what would happen next.  It also didn’t help that I was the only person in the theater and constantly had the A/C kicking on throughout the movie.  The sound effects are subtle enough that it doesn’t come across as cheesy, and they complement the great acting showcased in Prisoners.


Without a strong lead actor, a film like this simply falls apart.  Hugh Jackman does great as the conflicted father who becomes more and more desperate in the search for his daughter.  He’s a guy I certainly wouldn’t want to mess with.

One scene in particular in an exchange Keller has with Loki in his squad car.  He goes from raging lunatic to grieving father on a dime.   It’s good to see Jackman finally give a great performance in a film that’s based entirely in realistic life terms.  Yes, he was good as Wolverine, and I’m sure his performances were top-notch in Australia and Les Miserables, but those are musicals.

And don’t even get me started on Real Steel.


Jake Gyllenhaal also gives a convincing performance.  He maintains that balance of being a professional and keeping as objective and rational as possible, but there were just enough times to show that he also had a heart in trying to find the two missing girls.


Melissa Leo and Paul Dano both turn in great performances as Holly and Alex jones.  Their characters come across as very simple-minded, which of course makes the audience believe there’s more to their story than meets the eye.  There’s one particular scene that’s very disturbing involving Dano,  I’ll just leave it at that.


Terrance Howard and Viola Davis do a great just as a voice of reason for Keller.  Though they become somewhat involved, they have the good sense to back out before they get in too deep.  I’ve come to expect good performances from these two, and was not disappointed.

Overall I thought Prisoners did a great job at weaving together a complex story involving many players.  There’s just enough suspense throughout to keep the audience’s attention.  It also benefits from strong acting throughout the cast, as well as good cinematography and sound effects.  However, I don’t know that the film had to be as long as it way.  While the story progressed, at times I thought it went a little slow.

Will I see this movie again? Probably not.  The suspense and not knowing how things would turn out is gone, and I feel an additional viewing is unnecessary.  Other films like this were far less entertaining the second time watching it for me.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.


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