Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo, Dylan Minnette.
Rated: R. Crime/Drama. Running Time: 2 hours 33 minutes.
Hi everyone, hope you all had a great holiday season. We’ve been away a while with family, work, vacation etc., but we’re ready to get back into the swing. We rented Prisoners last night, an intriguing (albeit a bit too long) morality play that makes you contemplate some serious issues and has you asking the question, “what would I do?” Keller Dover (Jackman) is an outdoorsman, survivalist and decent family man. His best friend and neighbor, Franklin Birch (Howard), seems equally decent and both men are married with two kids. The families have a little Thanksgiving day gathering, and before long the two little girls (one from each family) end up wandering off unsupervised. This is where Prisoners begins in earnest, as the families desperately search for the missing girls. The focus quickly centers on a beat up camper that was seen parked nearby earlier. The camper’s driver, Alex Jones, another damaged man/child played by the seemingly one-dimensional Paul Dano, is apprehended by local cop, Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) and becomes the prime suspect. Extensive searching and questioning turns up nothing and the police eventually have to let Alex go. The clock is ticking and Keller decides to take matters into his own hands.
Prisoners has a similar feel to Mystic River or Gone Baby Gone. These films share that initial moment when your heart sinks and you feel nothing but absolute sympathy for the family involved. Then your mind wanders and you think, “what if it was me?” Suspenseful, intriguing and in its totality quite clever, Prisoners is a moral dilemma. The audience won’t know whether to encourage Keller Dover or to lock him away. Personally, I am a bit of a sucker for vigilante justice (i.e. my love of the Death Wish movies), but it strikes a different chord when you’re unsure of the recipient’s guilt. Jackman gives a truly electrifying performance as the desperate Keller Dover, alongside some fairly forgettable characters. Ross is right about the length, it ran a bit too long for my taste, especially in the middle. The ending was worth a wait, but not the wait they imposed on us. Prisoners kept us guessing and questioning ourselves for a good while, but no one can keep Ross Gallo guessing too long. The man is a savant.
I’m not sure about savant; idiot maybe. If you have kids, you have to relate to Keller Dover’s plight. I’m pretty sure if you’ve seen the previews for this movie, that I’m not ruining the plot by telling you that he tortures the hell out of Dano’s Jones. If it was my kid missing, would I go that far? My guess is yes. The filmmakers make it extremely uncomfortable, because there are serious doubts about Jones’ guilt. The race against time is on though and I found myself being unable to decide if I wanted him to continue or not. I’m certain this is the place where they wanted the viewer to end up. Hugh Jackman is excellent and carries the movie. It is through him that we “live” the anger, doubt, horror and anguish. The supporting cast is mostly wasted, though for you Saving Grace fans, it was cool to see an all grown up Dylan Minnette who played Grace’s nephew Cole on the TNT hit. Too long, but worth a watch for sure. Maria hit it on the head with the Mystic River feel. Though not the exact same plot, the cold, drab winter and tortured father are similar; as is the “did he do it or didn’t he?” suspect. Check out Prisoners to find out the movies answers, and probably some within yourself as well.
Prisoners was no shining cinematic achievement, but if you’re in the mood for a suspenseful mystery, it’s worth a try. It had a few good twists and turns. And Jackman’s emotionally charged performance cements his place as one of Hollywood’s eminent talents. He single-handedly keeps Prisoners above average. But the combination of the lengthy plot and forgettable supporting cast bumps it back into mediocrity. This isn’t the genre of movie I would rush off to see in theatres anyway, but it was a good RedBox investment.
Ross’ Rating- 3.25 Gummy Bears out of 5.
Maria’s Rating- 2.75 Gummies.