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Totally Captivating – A review of Prisoners

Updated on October 5, 2013
Hugh Jackman stars as a father trying to find his missing daughter and her friend in the thriller Prisoners
Hugh Jackman stars as a father trying to find his missing daughter and her friend in the thriller Prisoners

Title: Prisoners

Production Company: Warner Brothers

Run Time: 153 minutes

Rated: R

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo

5 stars for Prisoners

Summary: A taut and riveting production. This is the type of mystery you dream about. You can sink your teeth into it. It’s engaging and anything but predictable. Just what we needed for a fall weekend.

The main trouble with most Hollywood mystery movies is that they are utterly predictable. Within 20 minutes of most of these movies, you can peg the “bad guy” and then it’s just a ho-hum thriller waiting for an ending.

Prisoners, though, is anything but predictable. Clues and evidence revealed along the way just serve to send your mind reeling and any thought you might have had about who you may think is guilty along a totally different tangent.

Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello play a young Pennsylvania couple who, along with their son and daughter, visit friends for Thanksgiving dinner. The other couple, played by Terrence Howard and Viola Davis, also has two daughters of their own.

During a lull in the afternoon activities, the four kids take a walk together. The two younger kids discover an RV parked in the neighborhood and it takes the older kids to pull them away and focus their attentions elsewhere.

Later in the day, the two younger kids go missing and the focus turns to locating the now missing RV and its driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano). Jones, though, has the mind of a child and doesn’t possess the mental faculties necessary to pull off a kidnapping on his own.

Enter Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), an irreverent and insubordinate investigator whose arrogance stems from the fact that he’s never failed to close a case. The young hotshot comes into the fray with his own conclusions which are promptly unraveled as he pursues the case.

Like him, we think we know what happened. Like him, we can see from the evidence that we may be wrong too. And time is running out if we ever have hope of seeing the two young girls alive again.

The best part of the story is in its lack of predictability. We get a false lead that, like the detective, we follow only to discover a new dead end.

Watching the main characters unravel at the seams is a pure study in the human condition. Keller Dover (Jackman), out of shear frustration, decides to take the investigation into his own hands and starts down a questionable path of his own. But can we condemn him knowing well that we might do the same under similar circumstances?

Not all of the characters we meet are all that they seem to be. And that’s where the cleverness in the story takes effect. Listen carefully to the dialogue. The clues to solving the mystery are there.

Prisoners will leave you on the edge of your seat right through to the very end. It’s not typical Hollywood fare and the suspense is palpable but not in-your-face overt like many of today’s thrillers. If you want cheap thrills, rent a horror movie.

But if you’re looking for a movie that you can sink your intellectual teeth into, then enjoy this movie for what it is – 2-1/2 hours of riveting drama with compelling performances. I give Prisoners 4-1/2 out of five stars.

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