Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
There are movies that are labeled as thrillers and there are movies that ARE thrillers, Prisoners is definitely one that falls in line with the latter. When you speak to people who have been lucky enough to have seen this film they will probably go in on how the acting blew them away, but it isn’t just the acting that makes Prisoners fully loaded, it is just about everything.
The premise of Prisoners is one that centers around child abduction and abuse. I went into the theater blind (the best way to do it in my opinion) so I assumed it would be a prison movie of some sort. What it ended up being about was the many metaphoric meanings of the word prisoner… parents dealing with the helplessness when their children are taken, the children being prisoners themselves, and the mental anguish the entire episode places on everyone until some answer is given as to who did it, are they alive, and if so – where are they?
Prisoners was scary, it starts out with a simple enough introduction into the life of a normal family and then quickly escalates into a race against time involving a desperate father and a super detective. The ambiance of Prisoners reminded me of movies like Seven and Silence of The Lambs; this is the type of high-level company it keeps. Doubters of Hugh Jackman will truly believe when they see him going ballistic as Keller Dover. Jake Gyllenhaal who I believe to be a pretty good character actor did the damn thing as detective Loki also. Other names that you may recognize are Terrence Howard and Viola Davis, all heavy hitters in their respective roles.
The thing that made Prisoners so compelling was the direction, we the audience are set up with enough character development–which wasn’t plenty at all–to feel like we know the main characters even though I cannot tell you the names of the men’s wives. They were shown to be “regular”, and from stereotypes and familiarity, the little that we are given in the beginning is enough to feel empathy for their situation whenever the drama begins.
Hugh Jackman gives us hours of believable rage, fueled by a traditional machismo that is reinforced by his traditional wife, and it is a dynamic that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the rolling credits. Jake Gyllenhaal absorbed the Loki character and became him in every way possible. I loved the uncontrollable twitch that he had, a noticeable limp–though it was very slight–and the numerous tattoos telling us a story without him having to say a word or have it narrated. The families were wonderful, with Terrence Howard being the gentler balance to Hugh Jackman’s ferocity. Viola Davis was amazing in the way her 1,000 yard stare into the camera told volumes of her mental state and the few times that she was allowed to let that anger out.
The only downside for me was Maria Bello’s act as the hysterical momma Dover, it is no fault of her own being that I am just so tired of seeing it. Still, my disliking her character does not mean that she didn’t do a bang-up job along with the other players.
The dark, gritty atmosphere of the film is typical of these moody thrillers, but it did help set a foreboding tone to the situation. Two names I neglected to mention in my praises to the actors are that of Paul Dano and David Dastmalchian. While these young men could win awards for their creepy look and demeanor, they sold the hell out of their respective roles in Prisoners. It was such a treat to watch them work.
Prisoners is fully loaded and a 100% must-see if you love thrillers and crime dramas. It is one of the best movies of 2013 and you should try your best to see it as soon as possible.