Prisoners - Review
Prisoners – September 20, 2013 (9/10)
Prisoners is a thrilling experience from start to finish. The performances are so powerful and real that I forgot I was watching a movie. You’ll be mentally exhausted because the story provokes every emotion out of you. It’s films like this that resort my faith in Hollywood.
When art imitates reality, you can’t help but be engaged. There have been countless stories in the news about children being abducted. Some are found dead while others are held captive for years or even decades. So during the movie, you’re constantly wondering which end result will happen to these two little girls. As an audience member, you’re playing the role of the detective and the father. The story constantly makes you battle between those two roles as the events unfold.
Like most mystery films, there are plenty of clues and hints that make you want to solve the case before the characters do. But in Prisoners, you’ll find yourself in sync with the investigation. The twist and turns will have you on the edge of your seat. But the performances are what really make this story come alive. Everyone involved are at their absolute best. There isn’t one character that detaches you from the story. This is a perfectly executed living world.
One of the exhausting aspects of the movie is the run-time. It’s 2 hours and 30 minutes long. The story is still paced well and never slows up. But you find yourself wanting the investigation to be over soon just so your heart rate will go back to normal. There are so many elements to this case that it could have been streamlined with some parts cut out. But then again, it probably would have been easier to solve the case with less information.
Overall, Prisoners is a movie that you absolutely have to see. It’s current, thrilling, terrifying and you’ll never forget it. Try to see this as soon as you can because you don’t want anyone to spoil the ending for you. It’s one of those stories that you want to discuss with other people. Make sure you see the movie first and then check out the spoiler section below to see what kept this from being perfect.
There are a few things that bothered me about this movie. The first and most notable one is that Hugh Jackman isn’t the hero. From start to finish, you’re rooting for him to find the missing girls. Whenever Jake Gyllenhaal starts to slack off, Jackman steps up. And it’s Jackman that goes through the most trouble. You see the mental collapse of this man and you just want him to get his family back. But when the time comes for him to save the day, the kidnapper stops him and locks him away. Gyllenhaal ends up having to jump through more hoops to come to the same conclusion that Jackman did. Then Gyllenhaal is the one who saves the day.
There is an interesting moral dilemma about this. If Jackman were to kill the kidnapper and save his daughter then that means Gyllenhaal is a lousy detective and his role is slightly insignificant. This would also mean that Jackman’s torturing of the suspect was justified. But since Gyllenhaal is the hero, that means Jackman’s emotional journey doesn’t have a pay off. So either version of the ending would be controversial. I think the best way around that would be to have the detective’s daughter get kidnapped instead. This way, Gyllenhaal would have to struggle between upholding the law or becoming a criminal himself.
I also have some unsolved questions about the movie. Maybe I missed a piece of dialogue but there were a couple things I didn’t understand. Jackman tortures the suspect to find out where the girls are but nothing is working. Later on he finds out that the suspect is afraid of snakes. So I thought Jackman would have then used a snake as a form of torture. But it never happened. Then in the second suspect’s house, there are boxes full of bloody children’s clothes and snakes. Why were there snakes in there? This second suspect is also why the movie is so long. I had a hard time figuring out his role in everything.
Speaking of the bloody children’s clothes, the detective shows pictures of it to the families so they can identity them. This is a traumatic experience for them because they now think their daughters have been murdered. But a day or so later, it’s revealed that it was only pig blood and that the girls may still be alive. So why didn’t they test the blood before telling the parents?
Finally, I was able to solve the mystery early on but was thrown off by later information of the second suspect. Who knows, maybe other people caught this too. But in the beginning of the movie, Gyllenhaal investigates a Priest’s home and finds a dead body in the basement. The Priest said he killed the guy because he told him during a confessional that he kidnapped and murdered children. Then when the Priest was brought into the police station for more questioning, he revealed that the man he killed said that he was on a mission from God to do this and that he had a family. Well the only family that was missing a father was the first suspect. So I just naturally thought that entire family was in on it – And they were.