Movie Review: Prisoners (2013)

Prisoners-E invite R2

Plot:When Keller Dover’s daughter and her friend go missing, he takes matters into his own hands as the police pursue multiple leads and the pressure mounts. But just how far will this desperate father go to protect his family?

Prisoners reminds me oftwo things: why I really don’t want a rating system on my blog anymore and how hard it is to write about movies sometimes. Rating this film is particularly pretty hard. It is certainly another excellent film by director Dennis Villeneuve. He is the master of suspense, and if serious is your thing, you are bound to love him. He has an ability to slowly build his characters and give you surprising insight to their true colors when you least expect it.

The acting is superb. It is particularly easy to associate Hugh Jackman with only Wolverine, but here he proves the layered actor he can be. Keller Dover is a survivalist and a manly man. It is clear he takes pride in the protection of his family, and when his little girl is abducted after a Christmas dinner, he goes to desperate lengths to find her.


Jake Gyllenhaal keeps up his plight for me to like him. Detective Loki is assigned to work the case. He’s never lost a case and has sharp instincts, but even he is at wits end when all clues lead to dead ends. There is also something quite sinister or desperate to his character, which is hard to pin down. He’s quite clearly very dedicated to his job, but does it with an unhealthy mindless intensity that suggests that the only thing he does have is his job.


Then there is Paul Dano and David Dastmalchian, who both give chilling performances. Dano’s Alex Jones is a man of limited mental intelligence with an IQ of 10, but he manages to be so damn creepy I couldn’t reconcile myself with his innocence. Same goes for Dastmalchian – Bob Taylor is of such character that you need to suspect him.


Viola Davis as Nancy Birch does what only Viola Davis can do – tell you a story with her eyes. Her dialogue is always secondary to the convincing way she embodies her characters’ every mood. She’s incredible as a grief stricken mother of the other little girl who went missing, a stark contrast to the total collapse Grace Dover (Maria Bellow) suffers.

Another opposite is that of how Franklin Birch (Terrance Howard) deals with the disappearance of his child, compared to manic rage that overpowers Keller. Terrance Howard has tangible grief on screen, and seeing his close friend unravel seems to unnerve him. He’s put in a terrible place – to either join in or condone Keller’s actions. It is a grey are that no person alive can answer correctly.

The plot is complex and winding and you likely need to watch this more than once to fully understand the story. The plot is every parents’ worst nightmare – a child that just disappeared with known sex offenders in the town. The dreary images of a town almost surviving in poverty but not yet there is bleak to behold. The violence is gritty and the atmosphere is tense. The cinematography is phenomenal.

My only complaint is this: it feels like it is 400 hours long (Zoë denies this, naturally). The end was just a bit too drawn out, and while I enjoyed the slow pace throughout the film, the slow pace of the last section annoyed me. There was also just a bit of an open ending, which frustrates me endlessly.

I will give this film a solid and respected nod with 8/10. It took me ages to watch, and I’m glad when I got to it I watched it with Zoë, because I would never have finished it on my own. It is really drawn out in the end and that is the only reason I haven’t rated it higher.

10 thoughts on “Movie Review: Prisoners (2013)

  1. I think you wrote about this perfectly – but I get what you mean!
    I love this movie so much, but even I’ll agree that it feels very long. That ending more than made it up to me though.

  2. This movie. Yes. So intense, so depressing, but so good!!

    Alex Jones gave me the creeps. Keller Dover made me even more uncomfortable somehow though. The moral dilemma Villeneuve sets up here is truly compelling.

    Oh, and, if you want to test your Jake Gyllenhaal appreciation meter, you should check out Villeneuve’s ‘Enemy,’ which stars him in a double role. Weird af

    • So good but so intense!

      Alex Jones was a Creepy McCreeps. I shuddered every time he was on screen. Hugh Jackman was fantastic as Keller Dover – I couldn’t find it in me to judge his actions but like you said – the moral dilemma.

      I hear that Enemy is a movie that divides people, you either love it or hate it. It is next on my list for Villeneuve – I am quite addicted to his directing at this stage.

      • Ooh awesome, yeah that ones fun to see which side of the divide you end up falling on! Looking forward to that review! 😁

  3. Great review! French Canadian filmmakers, especially Villeneuve, got his name (before his big break in Hollywood) for this serious and intense dramatic movies. He is very good at doing this. While I haven’t seen Prisoners, I probably will feel the same way as intense movies that build on the suspense are incredibly grating to get through compared to say, a much lighter movie 😉 Its probably why I’ve been pushing this one aside. I really should catch up with all these Villeneuve movies. However, if you do get a chance, check out Maelstrom, one of Villeneuve’s earlier films, its a very unique piece of cinema 🙂

    • Thanks Kim! I’m a big fan of Villeneuve’s Hollywood work. Have you seen Sicaro? It is fantastic.

      Oh you might end up feeling exactly the same haha. It is rewarding, but you must wait for it. And it really is a super long film.

      I will definitely check out Maelstrom, sounds interesting.

  4. “Jake Gyllenhaal keeps up his plight for me to like him.” – FURTHER POINTS FOR GYLLENHAAL!!!!!

    Great review kindest. This movie… intense.

    Okay, it seems that I am in the extreme minority for NOT feeling like this movie was that long. I take any mention of length from you with a pinch of salt, you are bad, but most reviews about this complain about the length. I am really not too bothered about length, and I felt that every minute was utilised in this movie. If you were alone, you probably would not have finished this.

    Now on to Enemy. I would love to hear where you fall on the spectrum hahahahaha.

  5. I love Jackman more than life itself but I just really dislike this movie. The pace and the script are terrible. They keep throwing those red herrings are the viewer even though the viewer figures out what happened much sooner and it just completely robs the story of mystery. The music, Gyllenhaal and the scene near the end with desperate ride to the hospital are phenomenal which is what makes it so frustrating – mediocre movie with some truly wonderful things in it

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