Movie Review: Prisoners

From director Denis Villeneuve, comes a unique thriller that tells the story of a father's commitment, a detective's loyalty, and a town's deception and secrecy within its inhabitants. From the very start (or at least after the first twenty minutes), I was hooked by the deception and peculiar insanity that goes along in the result of two children's disappearance.

A deeply religious father of two, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), attends a Thanksgiving dinner with his wife and children at the house of their neighbor's, the Birches (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis). After dinner, their daughters go across the street to the Dover home to pick something up, but end up not returning. After Keller orders a full-scale police hunt for the girls, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) heads the case and searches for the RV the girls were playing on before that might have taken them. After interrogating Alex Jones (Paul Dano), the RV's driver, Loki begins to believe that it wasn't him, and that there is something far more complex and horrifying behind the disappearance of the girls. However, after Loki begins to feel hopeless, Keller takes the case into his own hands and does something that will alter the lives of himself, his family, and the life of a innocent boy forever. 

This was a stellar film, full of intrigue, daring twists and turns, and a committed father who goes over the edge to save his daughter. From the very beginning of the film, the intensity grew larger and larger as the father begun to show his frantic, crazy-protective side as he feared the worst had happened to his daughter. Then, as he grows more frantic and afraid, Keller becomes overwhelmed with fear, leading him to do everything that is humanly (and inhumanly) possible to find his daughter, and also punish the kidnapper who took them. The film was one of those thrillers that didn't need fast-paced scenes or bloody shoot-outs to be among the excellent. It used the amazing power of surprise and deception among trusted people to fuel its powerful push into becoming a successful thriller. From the first expected twist to its final haunting reveal, the film kept me on the edge of my seat and had my popcorn quantity withered in mere minutes, as it delivered an intriguing look at how far a man can go and how psychotic a man can get to save something he loves and take revenge on something he will despise forever. 

The cast of the film was purely, as stated, an talented and resourceful ensemble. Each character put into the film was given a large amount of thought and detail, making the characters essential to the intriguing story. Even the minor characters, like the wives (Maria Bello and Viola Davis) and the children played the conflicted members who couldn't do anything for their daughters/siblings except pray for their unharmed safety. Another minor (but all that important) character was the innocent victim of torture Alex Jones (Paul Dano), who became a pawn in the massively complex mystery of the girls' disappearance. A few of the most shockingly disturbing set of scenes in the film were the scenes of Alex's torture after he is falsely accused of the kidnapping of the girls. The brutality and intense fear put into those scenes is one of the reasons this film is so powerful, but also so disturbing. The leads in the film, Jackman and Gyllenhaal, define the film as intense and chaotic, with their beautifully menacing roles as a dedicated father and a conflicted detective. Jackman, who I last saw traveling through time as Wolverine once again in the trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past (due next year), stunned the crowd again with an amazing performance. Playing a strongly religious and overly-protective father, Jackman conjured his true insanity as he did something unnatural and cruel in order to save his daughter and restore peace within his broken family. While Jackman's performance was probably the best I've seen in a while (after Les Miz, of course), the true star was Jake Gyllenhaal's character, Detective Loki, who did everything in his power to appeal to the needs of a devastated family. From hunting down dirty RVs to cracking open crates of snakes, Loki must solve this case in order to maintain his clean record and not give up on this family in need. However, playing the good hero to solve the case at the film's start, by the end, Gyllenhaal's character becomes the lone survivor in a conflict of finding the hopelessly lost girls and preventing an ill-fated father from getting himself killed in the process. This cast surely shined and brought one of their best performances I've seen in a while. 

Overall, the film was stunning, complex, and most likely one of the best films of the nearly-completed year. With a frighteningly talented group of actors on set and a massively complex game of mazes beneath its inner core, this film was everything I expected and more. This, along with this year's Captain Phillips, marks one of the most gripping and complex thrillers I've seen in a while. 

I gave this film a 9 out of 10, because it had an incredible cast, a confusing maze of deception and torture, and an ending that will leave you jaw-dropped and asking: "What happens next?!?"                

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