“Prisoners” Review

26 Sep

627“Prisoners” is an intense, moody thriller that is a fully satisfying ride through the dark waters of murder and intrigue. An obvious comparison would be to David Fincher’s masterpiece Zodiac, and rightfully so; the direction, the ambience, and the slow build up of dread all emulate that movie, and while I believe that nothing can touch Zodiac, Prisoners is able to make itself its own film.

The acting is superb, anchored by a strong performance by Hugh Jackman as a father hurtling down a dark path, the days ticking on as his daughter gets farther from him. However, while he nails certain scenes, he sometimes falls into the trap of equating yelling with emotion. I’m more interested in Jake Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Detective Loki, a man with obvious hidden demons, but a man capable of hiding them. The dynamic between the two characters is perfect, though, realistically portraying the war of patience vs. strength.

The rest of the cast is superb on star value alone, containing the likes of Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, and Melissa Leo in excellent roles. The main standout is Paul Dano as Alex Jones, a seemingly naive, yet terrifying man who gets the full brunt of Dover’s rage. His character is also inherently tragic, and Dano plays that aspect to perfection.

As for the story itself, it’s well crafted. At a running time of 153 minutes, the film naturally becomes muddled and repetitive at times, but the story is honed enough so that it doesn’t plod on. The cinematography is beautiful, reflecting the rain soaked windows, the dreary, meticulous nature of the town, and the desperation of the characters.


The ending of the film is predictable, yet wholly satisfying. On the surface, it seems as if Dover’s actions have been vindicated, but at closer look, it only seems to condemn what he’s done. On the one hand, his endless barrage of torture may have been justified, but on the other hand, torture is still inherently bad. Dover’s subjected an innocent man to his own pain, and he realizes what he’s done.

There are a couple plot twists that feel contrived at the end, and the show moves toward the “Melissa Leo is the bad woman” a little too suddenly. However, it’s all worth it for that gorgeous, gorgeous scene in which Loki rushes toward the hospital in his car. The directing, cinematography, and acting in that scene is untouched by any other in the movie.

The ending scene obviously evokes the symbolism of the moment, with Dover being rescued due to the very thing that started this all. However, as he’s come full circle, he’s carried a burden that has caused him to partake in terrible activities.

(End spoilers)

This is a movie well worth watching, and while the show fails at times to fully tell its story of the human psyche, it succeeds as an intense, gripping thriller.

Grade: B+

Credit to Alcon Entertainment and Prisoners for all pictures. I own nothing.


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