Prisoners

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and his family attend a Thanksgiving dinner at the house of their neighbors, the Birches; that afternoon, both families’ young daughters, Anna Dover and Joy Birch, go missing. A police hunt finds an RV which had been parked outside the house, and when Detective David Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) tries to confront the driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano) he attempts to escape but is arrested.

Loki’s investigations uncover a corpse wearing a maze pendant in the basement of a local priest, who says he had killed the man who claimed to be “waging a war against God” by killing numerous children.

Alex Jones is found to be developmentally disabled, having the IQ of a ten-year-old, and despite many hours of aggressive questioning, the police cannot link him to the missing girls, so he is released. Dover then confronts Jones, who whispers to him “They didn’t cry until I left them”, although no one else hears it. Dover abducts and imprisons Jones in an abandoned apartment building, and tortures him for days, but obtains no further information. Franklin discovers that Dover has abducted Alex and later Nancy discovers it too. They do not help in the torture but plead with Alex to tell them where the girls are.

During a candlelight vigil for the girls, Loki sees a hooded man acting suspiciously. When Loki approaches the man for questioning, he runs away. Both girl’s houses are broken into, apparently by the same man, who is now a suspect. A clerk at a local store reports the man had been buying different sizes of children’s clothing. This suspect, Bob Taylor (David Dastmalchian), is arrested at his home, where the walls are covered in drawings of mazes. In a back room, Loki finds crates filled with maze books, live snakes, and bloodied children’s clothing. The Birches and Dover positively identify some of the items of clothing. Detained, Taylor confesses to the abduction, but before giving any more information, he kills himself.

Dover continues to torture Jones, who finally says he is not Alex Jones, and that he escaped from a maze. Dover visits Jones’s aunt, Holly (Melissa Leo) and brings up the topic of mazes, but Holly only says Jones does not say much ever since an accident involving snakes when he was young.

The blood on the children’s clothes is found to be pig’s blood. It is concluded that Taylor had been abducted as a child, and had been play-acting recreations of abductions using a true-crime book which involves unsolvable mazes; the clothing was items that had been stolen during the break-ins, and Taylor had no real involvement in the abductions.

Days later, a drugged Joy Birch is found, having escaped, but Anna is still missing. When Dover visits Joy in the hospital to ask for information, she mumbles to him “You were there.” Dover runs off, believing he now knows where his daughter is. Not knowing Dover’s true motivations, Loki goes looking for him at the abandoned apartment building and finds the imprisoned Jones.

Dover is not there, however; he had realized that Joy overheard him at the Jones’ house and that is where he returns, intending to torture Holly. She invites him in and pulls a gun on him, revealing that she alone was responsible for the recent abductions. She and her husband had abducted many other children, including Bob Taylor, as part of their own particular “war on God” for letting their young son Alex die of cancer. The man now known as Alex was the first child they abducted, and probably the only one along with Bob whom they did not murder. Holly shoots and imprisons Dover in a pit under an old car in her yard; there he finds a whistle that belonged to his daughter.

Loki goes to Holly’s house to tell her that “Alex Jones” was found. There is no answer at the door but he hears someone inside, so he enters. When he sees a photograph of Holly’s husband wearing the maze pendant, Loki draws his weapon, and searches the house, discovering Anna being injected with poison by Holly. When he confronts her she shoots at him, but he returns fire and kills her. Loki rushes Anna to the hospital, where she soon recovers. “Alex Jones” is reunited with his real parents.

Outside the Jones residence, a police team stops digging for the night. They tell Loki it will take weeks because the ground is frozen. Loki hears the faint sound of a whistle; he initially hesitates, but then hears it again and turns to investigate as the screen cuts to black.

REVIEW:

I don’t have any children, so I can’t relate to Prisoners, but I can see how the sudden disappearance of a couple of young girls can send someone off the deep end. Will they find the girls in time? Who is behind the kidnapping? What was the motivation behind the abductions?

What is this about? When his 6-year-old daughter is abducted and the investigation stalls, carpenter Keller Dover tracks down the culprit himself. But his vigilante action pits him against the case’s lead detective and puts his own sanity at risk.

What did I like?

Intense. I cannot remember the last time I saw Hugh Jackman this intense, outside of him playing Wolverine. I think we sometimes forget that the guy is a very talented actor, who can pull off these disturbing roles and then go sing in a Broadway show. Jackman’s character is hell-bent on finding his daughter. He’ll stop at nothing to get her back, even beating the snot out of some punk kid who just happened to be in the neighborhood, and torturing him until he talks. This is not the kind of guy you want to mess with. At times, it is uncomfortable to watch, but you know that you are watching greatness.

Truth. The deeper and deeper I get into this world of movie reviewing, the more I hear that trailers are giving away too much. Well, I went back and looked at the trailer for this. The only thing it gave away was the basic plot, who was starring in it, and the tone. For me, that is all a trailer need do to be effective. Sure, there are trailers that literally show all the good scenes, and there are those that tell you absolutely nothing, but the ad blitz behind this film was smart enough to keep it close to the vest and give us the bare minimum, making the film that much more of a mystery. Remember the says when you had to actually go see a picture to know what it was about, rather than look it up on Wikipedia or somewhere else on the internet? That’s the truth behind this trailer, and it works, for the most part.

What didn’t I like?

Solo act. At some point in the film, it becomes more about Jackman than anyone else, followed by the same kind of film from Jake Gylenhaal. Where is everyone else? Well, apparently they were there strictly as supporting cast and nothing more. Terrence Howard, who I thought was going to be awesome in this, especially since he was playing trumpet in the beginning, plays a guy who is a little more reserved and, for lack of a better term, conservative about getting his daughter back. After his wife is brought in on what Jackman is doing, we don’t see them again until near the end, and then neither one has a line of dialogue, if I’m not mistaken. This is pretty much the way it is for all of the families, but for what reason? The film just takes them out and plugs them back in later, without any explanation for what they were doing. Had it been something like they were researching previous abductions or wanted time away from this town, that would have at least made sense.

Length. At 153 minutes, this film felt as if it dragged in a couple of places. I know, I know, I’m always complaining about the lengths of movies, but this is one that I literally was getting into and then it lost me because it wasn’t really going anywhere. Luckily, it does take a sharp turn, dare I saw twist that brings the audience back in for the final act. I would say that about 15-30 minutes of this film could have been cut, making it much more effective and not so bleh.

I must apologize for the briefness of this Prisoners post. I just got in from a long weekend and am dead tired. Still, the show must go on, right? What is my final verdict on this film? Well, if you’re into thrillers of this sort, then this is right up your alley. For me, I would have preferred something a little more action-driven, as opposed to character based, but that’s a personal preference. This not a bad film. You get great performances from Hugh Jackman, Jake Gylenhaal, and a chilling one from Melissa Leo, but I can’t really say that I was gushing over. Perhaps you will so, at your own risk, give it a shot.

3 out of 5 stars

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