Prisoners is a film that ties knots for the majority of its screening time. It keeps the audience at the edge of their seats, in union with the characters’ pace in solving the crime, and brings off a bit of certainty until it proves you otherwise.
For two hours and 25 minutes long, I can’t remember the film resulting to boring. Lead actors Hugh Jackman (Keller Dover) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Detective Loki) has shown excellent acting abilities here; it becomes impossible to ignore. Jackman’s character has been established in the beginning as a religious and a determined hunter who gets what he wants and their situation tests how far he is willing to go, just to protect his family. Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, delivers with a calm and subtle exterior yet achieves greater effect as a detective with a clean track record of solving all cases he handles. It is also interesting how realistic and creepy is the portrayal of Paul Dano (Alex Jones) as a 26 year old guy with a mind like that of a 10 year old. The rest of the ensemble really did a good job, too, quite admirable.
This is a crime thriller that made me cry and ache for the characters. At first one becomes certain as to who the villain is, but as the plot thickens gray areas become prevalent.
Cinematography is gritty and complex. Also note that it’s almost never sunny in the film. Every outdoor encounter always have rain or snow, synonymous to the emotional weight of the parents whose daughters were abducted on a day that ends sunlight in their lives. Musical scoring-wise, this was subtlety at its finest. Everything was right on cue as it provided enough ambiguity and a bit of clarity on scenes where actions and sounds tell more vividly than words.
This is not a perfect film as there were a few misses, too.
First, the dog scene with Alex could be very much explainable given his condition, but that being acceptable is another. It should probably be a scene involving a computer generated imagery (CGI) or props because it’s disturbing. I cringed upon seeing it.
Second, when Alex has gone missing, nobody suspected if he was abducted despite knowing that he was Keller’s prime suspect for taking his daughter. They have no clue, not until Mrs. Dover divulged to Detective Loki that her husband stays outside late at night to help with their daughter’s search. They believed that a grown up man with a kid’s mind would run away just like that so they rest their case. He is a suspect, guilty or not, he shouldn’t be out of sight.
Third, Detective Loki lost his cool, ran to the suspect who is withheld in their custody, confronted him and suspect gets a hold of his gun which in the first place shouldn’t happen as police aren’t supposedly bringing weapons inside interrogation rooms. One can argue that it’s the emotions taking over, but still. I feel frustrated upon the maze guy’s death because he could be the missing link to a few vital information but he just ate a bullet and died. Ugh.
Lastly, Detective Loki, as mighty as he could, saves Anna’s life (from poisoning) despite blood flowing down his face due to gunshot on his head. Determined and frustrated, he drives on a hazy, snowy, night just to go to the hospital. It was an intense scene but a bit offbeat as he could have just called for a back up which could in turn delay the saving, but the probability of them surviving is higher than risking it on the road.
All these could easily be taken aside though, because my high hopes for this film were surely delivered. All the flaws here could be singled out in one reason: characters all flesh out and mere justification of their personality, more than a flaw per se.
This is definitely one of the must-watch films of the year. It deserves acknowledgment for originality and brilliant execution, more than how it seems to be. The ending could stain Detective Loki’s brimming clean record or could be another notch to his deducing skills. Either way, it left me the same way it did from the beginning: hanging.
For me it is a good indication if a film can make me wonder and discuss plot with friends right after. Prisoners does just that –it’s the kind that lingers even after it has ended.