Prisoners (2013)


Prisoners – IMDb 240/250

When Prisoners, an American crime thriller by director Denis Villeneuve was released, I, doing my usual nothing on a Saturday night, went with a friend to see this film, knowing absoutlely nothing about it other than Hugh Jackman and the career rejuvenating Jake Gyllenhaal starred.

By the time I came out of the cinema, I was left completely blown away, as I had seen one of most intense films I’d ever witnessed.

And intense is the word I would use to describe Prisoners. The film is about two seemingly happy families living in a rather bleak looking Pennsylvania. Their happiness is soon destroyed however when their young daughters are abducted in broad daylight, and the story follows the families desperate search to find them, showing the extreme length one of the fathers will go (Jackman) to find his daughter.

From the very beginning the atmosphere and tension of Prisoners is built – the grey colour and bleak setting seep through the early moments of the film, and you knew despite the early easy going moments something awful would soon happen. I didn’t know the film was about abduction (I assumed it was your run of the mill crime film) – but you just knew straight away something wasn’t right.

And from this intense beginning the film gives you no respite – it strays away from over sentimentality and instead just shows you the complete horror that losing your children has on a family – and the story that is told is incredible.

There are plot twists and turns that are very cleverly handled and the story is wonderfully crafted, as you find out more about Alex (Paul Dano) and his potential involvement in the children’s abduction – with Dano producing another subtly brilliant performance as the mentally troubled young adult.

But it is the powerlessness and loss the family feel in trying to get their children back that really hits you and is the real story of the movie, helped by fantastic performances from Jackman, Maria Bello as his wife Grace, and the Oscar worthy performance from Gyllenhaal as a top detective looking for the children.

The acting in this is first class from the whole cast, but Gyllenhaal particularly adds excellent subtle nuisances to his character, from his supposedly improvised OCD tendencies to the calmness and drive he has as a detective, Gyllenhaal clearly deserved more recognition from this performance. And although Roger Ebert may not have been impressed, I really thought this was the best acting performance I had seen from Hugh Jackman too.

A good drinking game - drink every time Gyllenhall blinks

A good drinking game – drink every time Gyllenhall blinks – though Prisoners isn’t exactly a pre-drinking movie

Then you have the cliff-hanger ending, with the shocking reveal of the abductor, to the most intense drive I have seen in cinema, and then that last haunting moment with the whitstle – Villeneuve made sure Prisoners stayed with me once the credits started rolling.

And believe me every scene between Keller Dover (Jackman) and Alex (Paul Dano) will leave you speechless… You’ll understand when you watch it.

The only negatives I could say about this film is that when you watch it for a second time it does lose some of its power and intensity, so once you know what has happened it doesn’t quite have that same impact – which perhaps some of the best films can achieve even after several watches.

It could also be called a bit clichéd and perhaps tries a bit too hard to pull on your heart strings, but as a cinema experience I can honestly say Prisoners is one of the best films I’ve seen – no matter what Roger Ebert says.

Prisoners: 9/10


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