Monday, 21 October 2013

Prisoners (2013) - Film Review

Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhall and Paul Dano.


When the young daughters of close friends and neighbours Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard) disappear one Thanksgiving day, suspicions immediately point towards resident, Alex Jones, who is taken and then released for lack of evidence. Assigned to the case is Detective Loki, who finds himself at odds with the aggrieved Keller, who takes Jones hostage in a desperate bid to save his child.

prisoners film, hugh jackman, paul dano, film reviewThoughts:
Prisoners dutifully ticks off the 'missing child' checklist so ubiquitous in such films:
the close knit family, check, obligatory sleepy town, check, an ever growing stock of suspects, each increasingly more creepier than the last, check, check and check. 

Don't however make the mistake of dismissing Prisoners as another cliché-ridden drama. It takes these devices and scatters them appropriately throughout. Always as a means of driving the story forward, instead of clumsy attempts to keep the audience in constant guesswork as to the true suspect's identity. 

Most appreciated is the fact that Prisoners plays on the audience's ignorance, but chooses not to exploit it with gaping plot holes. Nothing is unexplained, but instead neatly slots together in what can at times feel like a slightly labyrinth-ian style plot (Hint: I use with the word labyrinth for good reason...) Prisoners did have me curled up in anticipated fear, and definitely had me with hand over mouth as it lures the audience into unbelievable turns of plot (A word of warning - those with a nervous disposition towards snakes should watch with caution!)

prisoners film, hugh jackman, jake gyllenhall
Jake Gyllenhaal stars in an understated performance as the acerbic Detective Loki. Altogether not the most likeable or affable of men, though a glad departure from the worn out stock character of 'tortured' detective. (Think deep rooted alcoholism and aggression issues). Although a murkier childhood is alluded to, Prisoners decides to eschew from developing this further. Thankfully so - again any personal demons calling his professional integrity into question are sidestepped in favour of a more straightforward characterisation.

Paul Dano is suitably creepy as the prime suspect in no one's eye but Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover, the aggrieved father of one of the missing girls. Police efforts are soon concentrated elsewhere due to Dano's regressed mental state, though Keller is convinced otherwise. He implements his own brand of justice in hopes to extract a confession that will lead him to his child. Dano plays up the part with simpering, childlike mannerisms, with hints of a sinister streak lurking menacingly in the shadows of his apparently fragile psyche. Jackman is a strong screen presence, though I felt as though the role wasn't particularly challenging in any great sense.

Prisoners is a smart thriller, that respects its audience enough to avoid clichéd conventions of the 'missing child' genre.


  1. This was a great review and summed up the film really well! I liked the twists in the film although I did guess the big one, which is strange for me - I am usually so naive with films! x

  2. Thank you! Haha I am always trying to second guess everything in a vain attempt to outwit the plot, but I was actually stumped with Prisoners!