In America, a statistic showed that more than 800,000 children under the age of 18 goes missing, meaning there’s a child missing every 40 seconds, and . There’s a term, Stereotypical Stranger Abduction which refers to a condition where a child is taken and killed or held for ransom. But on some cases the child is taken to be kept permanently. In 1996, when 9-year old Amber Hagerman was kidnapped while riding her bike, only to be found murdered, a system eponymous to her name was established. The AMBER alert system, stands for America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response, is effective in 50-states in the US and as of April 2013, it has successfully recovered 600 cases of missing children. It is no wonder that a child abduction case is a fodder for crime/police procedural type of films or television. Prisoners is one of those.
On a thanksgiving day, the Dovers, a family of four is walking together, a picture of happy middle-class family, a hardworking father, a loving mother, a teenage son, and a young daughter, the little princess of the family. They went to their neighbor house, the Birches, a long time friend of the family, at dinner they shared laughters and exchanged stories over turkey and pumpkin pies. Later, when the teenage son hangs out with the teenage girl and the parents are doing their adult conversations, they realised that their daughters Anna Dover and Joy Birch was nowhere to be found. Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard) tried to comfort their wives while having a wild streak of panic down their spines as well. The missing girls triggering Amber alert and the police are conducting search parties to find the missing girls. Assisted by detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) from the local precinct, they manage to locate Alex Jones (Paul Dano) whose RV was around their neighborhood at the time of the kidnapping and become a prime suspect of their investigation. Case closed? Not quiet, unfortunately. When the only suspect have an IQ of a 10 year-old thus incapable of answering questions eloquently and live with his Aunt Holly (Melissa Leo), Loki must relied on his gut instincts and dig further, leading him into a messy chase. Just like trying to find your way out of a maze.
This film gripped me from the very beginning, as the sinister mystery began to unfold amidst the the crushed autumn leaves on the quiet Pennsylvania sub-urban landscape. A backdrop to the story that grew bleaker as the story progressed. While the twist come very predictable thus took some of the surprise away from me (i might have seen too many similar ones from Criminal Minds and others), i found the pace of the film still truly engaging. In the 150 minutes of the film, not once did i fell bored, i remained fully invested to the characters and their tale on screen, a prove of a well constructed script accompanied by a concise editing. Although the story seemed like a crime/police procedural drama on the surface especially at the beginning where we went along with detective Loki as more pieces of the puzzle that showed up seemed to become more random and scrambled. Later on, the film progressed even darker as it spends more of its time focusing on the humanity of the characters, making the film a wonderful collage of character studies.
Although the wonderful script is the backbone of a good film, the cast of the film are the things that successfully fleshed out the script. Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, and Maria Bello did a solid job for their part giving just enough support to allow the leads to shine. Paul Dano give a creepy vibe from the very beginning, there’s an ominous ambiguity of his character that would made you had a hard time telling what’s going on under the surface. The surprise for me is Melissa Leo as Alex’s aunt, Holly Jones. I actually did not recognize her at first, as she was so different in her physicality on top of her extraordinary acting capabilities.
Hugh Jackman really delivered his maximum potential in this film, showing how raw and fleshed out he can be in the shoes of a religious father who was troubled from the anguish of loosing his daughter. His character shows a moral dilemma of a grieving parents, handling frustration as well as desperation in the sombre occasion to extreme measures. Starkly contrasted with Terrence Howard’s character who was more. Jake Gyllenhaall i think stole this one just by the skin of his teeth. I was immersed in his character transformation from a restrained perfectionist, emotionally detached man of a law before loosing partial of his some of his control out of sheer frustration. The dynamic of his character was very interesting to see as it changes throughout the film.
While i wished for a more inventive twist, i found Prisoners to be very engaging film, with an unforeseeable conclusion wrapping up the film. A gripping police procedural thriller with wonderful character studies, supported by amazing actors that fully realized the intention of the script. The bit of violence, the dark, foreboding intensity would cause a lot of discomfort as the film obviously intended. Although it was obviously a very subtle and enigmatic film, i am not too crazy about watching it again anytime soon. Not because it was not great, mind you, but because the nuance it offers affected me greatly…
GENRE Thriller, Drama
DIRECTOR Denis Villeneuve | PRODUCER Broderick Johnson, Kira DAvis, Andrew A. Kosove, Adam Kolbrenner | WRITER Aaron Guzikowski | MUSIC Jóhann Jóhannsson | CINEMATOGRAPHER Roger A. Deakins | EDITOR Joel Cox, Gary D. Roach | STUDIO Alcon Entertainment | DISTRIBUTOR Warner Bros. | COUNTRY United States | BUDGET $46 million | RUNNING TIME 153 minutes | RATING R for disturbing violent content, including torture, and language throughout | RELEASE September 20, 2013 (US)
STARRING Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano