Distributed by: Warner Bros
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I remember first seeing the trailer for Prisoners when I saw The Butler in theaters and thinking, "Hmm...that movie looks...disturbing." The fact that a simple trailer could leave me feeling a bit disturbed about the subject matter and the actors involved in the film made me decide to see Prisoners when it hit the theaters.
On Thanksgiving Day, the Dovers and their friends and neighbors, the Birches, decide to get together for Thanksgiving dinner. Things are going well and the families are enjoying themselves until some time after dinner, when they realize that six year olds Anna Dover (Erin Gerasimovich) and Joy Birch (Kyla Drew Simmons) are missing. After a quick search yields negative results, teenager Ralph Dover (Dylan Minnette) remembers that the two girls had to be forcefully pulled from an old RV parked nearby when he and Eliza Birch (Zoe Borde) had gone for a walk earlier that day. The police find an RV matching the description parked at a nearby gas station and lead Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) approaches it. That's when things begin to get really interesting.
The driver tries to run, crashing the RV, and is placed under arrest. In questioning Alex Jones (Paul Dano), Loki learns that he is a confused young man with the IQ of a ten year old. Despite that fact and the fact that no trace evidence connecting the children with the RV can be found, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is convinced that Alex is guilty, especially after a comment he makes to Keller in the parking lot of the police station after being released to his aunt.
A survivalist who prides himself on being prepared for any emergency, Keller Dover is beside himself that he hasn't prepared for this. His family depends on him to protect them and now his little girl is missing. Believing in his heart of hearts that Alex knows something, Keller decides to find out what he knows and nothing, not even his devout connection to religion, will stop him from learning what Alex knows.
Meanwhile, Detective Loki, a man who prides himself on having solved every case ever put before him, is coming up empty on this one. That is, until he sees a suspicious individual at a candlelight vigil held for the girls by the community. Unfortunately, Keller Dover's strange behavior has become so distracting to Loki that he is losing focus on the case at hand. And all the while, the audience is wondering, just what has happened to these two little girls?
To say that Prisoners is a disturbing film is an understatement. The movie is about missing children - any individual who has young children in their family or works with young children in any way will find the way these two disappear without a trace to be disturbing. The intensity in the movie builds the longer these girls go missing as hope for finding them alive, if at all, wanes with each passing moment. The frustrations of each and every character in this film is felt by the viewer as we realize there aren't all that many clues provided that will help us solve the case.
The emotional rollercoaster of this movie is helped along by dramatic performances by Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis and Jake Gyllenhaal. You can really feel the pain of each of these characters and each one expresses that pain in a different way. Keller feels anger and guilt and uses violence as an outlet. Franklin Birch (Howard) is bewildered and distraught, hardly able to truly feel what is going on around him until Keller brings him in on his plan to find their daughters. Grace (Bello) is a basketcase, relying on medication and sleep to get her through. Nancy (Davis) can't bring herself to do anything but wait for that call that tells her that her little girl has been found and is okay. And Loki's frustration and building anger is a palpable thing - not as palpable as Keller's but his determination to find the two girls is just as strong.
There is an underlying theme in this movie that makes it all the more disturbing that of religion and sinners. Keller is an extremely religious man who comes from a family in which one of its most influential members has committed a mortal sin. The first scene in which we see Keller is an ominous one in which he recites The Lord's Prayer while his son shoots a deer for dinner. The suspect comes from a deeply religious family and is listening to religious music in the first scene he appears in. His family used the RV to travel so they could "spread the good word" to all those who might need it. There is the drunk priest found by Detective Loki and the body in his basement. It would appear that the priest has committed a mortal sin, but why? And then there is Detective Loki, who appears to have no faith at all and later reveals just why that is. There is another theme - each of the main characters is fighting demons from their past. Their very survival depends on their success with this battle.
The musical score of this film is another factor that keeps the listener on edge. It's sad and dark and gives the viewer a sense of impending doom. For more on the musical score of Prisoners, check out my review at http://www.g-pop.net/prisonerssoundtrack.htm.
I've only heard one complaint from those who have seen the film. It was a complaint that I anticipated as I walked out of the movie theater and it stems from the way the movie ended. I don't want to give the ending away, but I will say that had the powers that be ended the movie in any other way, viewers would have been highly disappointed. I believe that Prisoners ended on just the right note...but that is all that I can say without spoiling it for those who haven't seen it yet.
One thing to remember if you do decide to see Prisoners - and I highly recommend you do - is that nothing is ever as it seems. You may think you know what has happened to the girls...you may think you know who took them...you may think you know what is about to happen next, but trust me, you don't have a clue. That's what makes Prisoners one of the most dramatic and suspenseful thrillers of the year and a must see for any true movie fan.