“… the kind of movie that will beat you until you beg it to stop, and then repeatedly kick you in the stomach when you are down.”
I still remember seeing Prisoners in theatres for the first time and being completely amazed. The way that I was instantly transported into the world where this tragic story was taking place was amazing to me at the time, and it still is. Prisoners is the story about two little girls that go missing, and the lives of those trying to find them. The film is pretty evenly split between the story of the father of one of the girls, played by Hugh Jackman, and the detective trying to find the girls, played by Jake Gyllenhaal.
Prisoners in an awful film. Not because it is bad, but because it makes you feel bad. That’s what I would say the “selling point” is for the film, the ability to control your emotions like a puppeteer. No aspect of this film is happy. There are things that otherwise might make you feel fulfilled in the story, but when presented to you they instead make you feel sorry for all parties involved. From the moment the film starts we are introduced to this setting that might as well be in black and white. Grey skies and hushed tones really set the stage for what we are about to witness for the next 150 minutes. This is great because the story presented would never be a happy one. If two little girls were abducted in the real world, that story would not be happy. Even if they were found its not really a happy event because they were taken in the first place. It shows us how fucking disgusting the world can be, and Prisoners captures that perfectly. Besides being a very realistic presentation, Prisoners also structures itself to allow for intrigue from the audience. Even though the film is making you physically sick to watch, it keeps you wanting more. It doesn’t do this with cliché moments that every episode of CSI is built off of, but instead takes you on a journey, and much like the lead detective it allows you to piece together the evidence. The film is almost like a noir or procedural with the way the police work is presented, but the overarching story is so much more than that.
Apart from the story, Prisoners is a very well made film. Every single performance, and I’m not exaggerating when I say every single one, is amazing. Be it Hugh Jackman who plays a father who had a piece of his soul ripped out and will stop at nothing to get it back, or Jake Gyllenhaal who plays a detective who is not only faced with the burden of finding these two girls, but also dealing with their parents who are going through absolute hell. Even past the “stars” you have brilliant performances. Paul Dano is absolutely breathtaking in his roll as Alex Jones, the main suspect in the case. Maria Bello plays the part of a a grieving mother wonderfully, to a point where I could relate on a personal level to what she was feeling. Terrence Howard and Viola Davis both do outstanding jobs as the parents of the other missing girl, and both Dylan Minnette and Zoë Soul do great jobs as the remaining child in their respective families. I could go on and on about every single performance, but I’ll stop myself because I’m starting to sound like a shitty IMDB page just listing off actors and their roles. Just believe me when I say that every single person does their part, and more, in Prisoners.
On more technical aspects Prisoners is a very well shot film. I already mentioned the bleak appearance of the film, which set the tone, and a lot of that was accomplished by the directing. The pacing is also astounding because it felt like I was watching the film for only 30 minutes before the credits started to roll. This goes back to how engaging the story is, but it really does suck you in whether or not you want it to.
Prisoners is the kind of movie that will beat you until you beg it to stop, and then repeatedly kick you in the stomach when you are down. With phenomenal performances, great directing, and an engaging story, Prisoners really is an amazing film.
I give Prisoners an A