If your daughter and her friend disappeared walking home and you were positive you knew who did it, how far would you go to bring that person to justice? How far would you go to make that person feel exactly how you do? That’s an interesting question seeing as it’s safe to say the majority of us students on campus don’t even know what it’s like to have a child at all. Those that do probably just answered the question and would feel exactly how Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) does when his daughter and her friend are abducted. Prisoners is the story of what a father will do for his child when nobody can help and he must take matters into his own hands.
Keller Dover, his wife Grace (Maria Bello), son Ralph (Dylan Minnette), and daughter Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) are enjoying Thanksgiving dinner at the Birch’s, who are family friends. Keller is good friends with the father, Franklin (Terrence Howard), and the rest of the family get along well with wife Nancy (Viola Davis) as well as daughters Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons) and Eliza (Zoe Borde). Later in the evening, Anna and Joy want to walk back to the Dover’s down the street for toys, but never end up coming back.
The only evidence is a creepy, old RV that was parked on the street earlier and the only suspect is a young man with a mysterious past and the IQ of a 10-year-old. The police catch Alex Jones (Paul Dano) driving the RV at a rest stop, but when they approach the vehicle he attempts to evade them, which results in him crashing it into the woods. Once incarcerated, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) realizes that Jones doesn’t understand the questions or charges laid before him because he hardly thinks independently without the help of his aunt, Holly (Melissa Leo).
The RV search results in no evidence and the only prime suspect seems to have no idea what’s going on, so he’s released from custody. However, Keller catches him in the parking lot and gets physical in an attempt for answers. When it looks as if the kid is truly a clam, he whispers, “They only cried when I left them,” sending Keller to the point of no return. The authorities still don’t have enough evidence to detain Jones, so Keller takes the bull by the horns and abducts him to continue the investigation his way.
The first red flag that becomes a “cinema scare” for many people (including myself depending on the movie) is the two-and-a-half hour running time. There’s no doubt that a good amount of us see this and automatically think, “Do I really want to dedicate three hours to seeing a movie tonight?” I can’t say this for all movies that exceed the two-hour attention average, but this one is completely worth seeing mainly because it does a good job filling that large amount of time. Even though there are some parts when the speed of the film slows down and there is a lot of dialogue or it feels like just another scene in a long movie that was unnecessary, it hits you with a payoff that proves necessary to the plot or a character’s development.
Speaking of characters, the overall tone, mood and character profiles in this movie are phenomenal. Obviously, this is a crime drama/thriller, so the feel is kind of dark, cold and mysterious, which is directly reflected by the previously mentioned categories. The lighting is very dull and gray, it’s constantly raining, and all the main characters are always struggling to fight a losing battle. Keller is obsessed with forcing Alex Jones to confess his involvement in the kidnapping; Loki is pursuing multiple leads from start to finish while also dealing with the mental repercussions of losing some of them, as well as the pressure from Keller to find the girls. Grace Dover suffers from extreme depression, and both Franklin and Nancy Birch are stuck in a symbolic tug-of-war of whether or not Keller has gone too far with Jones.
There are a lot of characters in this film, but the way their appearances are sprinkled in the arrangement of the film makes it so there is always something going on. Not to mention, the actors’ performances are all better than average. Hugh Jackman’s intensity shines as he excels in a role most people will find refreshing from his usual Wolverine. Despite Jake Gyllenhaal playing another cop role (End of Watch, anyone?), his performance is much darker than what we’ve seen from him before. He does an excellent job pulling off the tweaker detective with a chronic blinking problem, tattoos and a fade haircut finished with the top slicked back.
The only real aspect of the movie that irked me was how little background was given on Gyllenhaal’s character. Like I said, he doesn’t look like the prototypical detective and I was dying to know where the haircut and tattoos came from. So, don’t let the long run time scare you away, this is a crime thriller that keeps you guessing and rewards you with a pretty awesome, double-twist ending.
7 out of 10.