Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo, Dylan Minnette, Erin Gerasimovich, Kyla Drew Simmons, Zoe Borde and Paul Dano
Writer(s): Aaron Guzikowski
Director(s): Denis Villeneuve
It may be the worst moment in a parent’s entire life. When it becomes clear that their young child who is missing has probably been taken, the emotions are off the scale. That is what makes Prisoners such an excellent film. The writer and director have given the four actors who deal with this situation an almost ideal setting to display the range of feelings they are experiencing.
“Keller Dover” (Jackman) and his wife “Grace” (Bello) are taking their kids “Ralph” (Minnette) and “Anna” (Gerasimovich) to Thanksgiving dinner at the home of their neighbors, “Franklin Birch” (Howard) and his wife “Nancy” (Davis) and their two kids, “Joy” (Simmons) and “Eliza” (Borde). It’s a nice evening, a relief for Keller whose construction business is struggling. Anna and Joy want to go out and play and when they don’t return, panic sets in.
That’s when Ralph remembers the two girls were playing next to and on a RV that was parked right outside the house. Keller and Franklin go looking for it but it is nowhere to be found. “Detective Loki” (Gyllenhaal) responds and soon the RV is located. “Alex Jones” (Dano) tries to flee but is caught. It turns out that he has a very limited IQ and in spite of looking like a prime suspect, he is released. Unconvinced of his innocence, Keller Dover decides he will do whatever he must to get Alex to confess and disclose where the girls are being held. Alex lives with his aunt, “Holly Jones” and Keller visits her in an attempt to coerce her into making Alex talk. She is less than helpful.
While Detective Loki is pursuing each and every lead, obsessed with not ruining his record of solving every case he is assigned, Keller kidnaps Alex and begins torturing him to obtain the information he is desperate to get. Things take stranger and stranger turns after that.
The writing is terrific here. So is the acting. You can see every feeling that Keller, Franklin and their wives are going through in both verbal and nonverbal communication from the moment the girls disappear. Fans of “the Wolverine” will recognize the same kind of commitment to achieve a goal in Keller, but otherwise this is a new and very different character for Jackman. The issue of how to deal with the rights and wrongs of doing whatever needs to be done to save your child is handled deftly here.
Prisoners is a movie that holds its audience captive throughout and there’s no point in even attempting to escape the auditorium. Sit back, relax and enjoy.
Rating – R for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout
Running time – two hours and twenty-three minutes