A few of the major causes of stress in your life are money, your job, your family, or the death of someone you know. That being said, the experience of sitting through Prisoners was possibly the most stressful 2.5 hours of my entire week. The film will grip you and hold you captive until the very last moment, right before it fades to black.
Everything is idyllic, normal and predictable for husband and father Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman). A man of faith and a survivalist at heart, he is ready for almost every world-ending eventuality. Almost. After having dinner with their neighbors Nancy (Viola Davis) and Franklin (Terrence Howard) and their children, they discover that both of their young daughters have gone missing. The appearance of a mysterious RV parked down the street is the only lead they have to go on. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), with his immaculate case record, is put on the case and quickly locates the RV, only to be lead into a chase that ends in the arrest of the owner, Alex Jones (Paul Dano). Alex is of no help to police because his aunt, Holly (Melissa Leo), reveals that he has a low IQ among other things. Alex’s creepy, anti-social demeanor is not enough to keep him locked up, so he is set free.
Hearing the news, Keller rushes to the police station to confront Alex, who he feels is the only possibly lead to finding the children. With time running out for the chances of finding them alive, Keller takes matters into his own hands, abducting and torturing Alex for information. With his family, especially his wife Grace (Maria Bello), on the verge of collapse, he must do anything and everything to find his daughter alive. Meanwhile, Loki, with the same obsessive fervor as Keller, refuses to give up and stumbles onto a bigger crime that could possibly be related. Is Alex actually behind everything, or is there something dark and more sinister taking place?
Usually, when this many Oscar winners/nominees are crammed into a movie it can only mean one thing: The movie is over-compensating for something. I am pleased to say this was not the case. Every actor, no matter how big or small their role, added an extra thick layer of realism and genuineness that only helped to keep you immersed in their world. You forget that Hugh Jackman is best known as Wolverine (although I wouldn’t have minded much if at some point claws came out), and you believe that Jake Gyllenhaal is a hard-ass detective who has a weird blinking problem that comes out when he’s stressed. The performances were great, but they would be nothing without a good story behind them.
The plot itself is full of more red herrings than a local fish market. Some of them point out obvious turns we saw miles away, but there were enough twists to keep us on the edge of our seats and still interested. Prisoners built up the suspense better than most horror films I’ve seen recently. It is hard to stomach the idea that the situations that have taken place, are anywhere near the realm of possibility of something that could happen to you. After you’ve reached the end of the road, and there are no more twists or turns to be had, you end up at the satisfying climax that is both clever and bittersweet.
Prisoners is an expertly acted, eloquently written film that will haunt you long after you’ve finished watching it. If you don’t leave the theater questioning your morals and calling your children right away, chances are you probably went to see a different film.
RATING: ★★★★★★★★(8/10 stars)
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