Movie Review: Prisoners (2013)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.