Film Review: Prisoners

Written by Mallory Delchamp

Prisoners Theatrical poster

Prisoners, the new film from director, Denis Villeneuve could easily be summarized as “the film that illustrates just exactly how Wolverine would react to his hypothetical daughter being kidnapped.” Or at least that is how I would describe the two and a half hour long thriller.

The film, stars a rugged Hugh Jackman, a surprisingly hefty Jake Gyllenhaal and an emotional Viola Davis and recounts the tale of a protective father’s struggle to find his six-year-old daughter after she is mysteriously kidnapped one Thanksgiving evening. Personally I’ve never been a huge fan of crime dramas but Prisoners managed to hold my attention despite the sluggish pace of the film and it’s lengthy run time. Prisoners is indeed slow and it allows for little character development (surprising since it’s so long) seeing how the daughter is kidnapped within the first twenty minutes and the audience is immediately thrust into a gripping wild goose chase of the young girl’s kidnapper.

While Villeneuve’s latest cinematic piece could easily have been an hour less in length; the indie director doesn’t leave anything to the viewer’s imagination. The film does do a thorough job at showcasing Keller Dover’s (Jackman) borderline irrational attempt to get his daughter’s suspected kidnapper to confess to his crime. And, please note that I said irrational. Keller Dover nearly beats the suspect (played by a creepily convincing Paul Dano) to a pulp along with subjecting him to many torturous acts (the film is rated R and for good reason considering the violence and strong language throughout).

Hugh Jackman gives a dramatic but genuine performance as the distraught father. He manages to capture the heartbreak and determination of a parent missing their child and still maintains the masculinity and ruthlessness that he has come to be known for. Jake Gyllenhal who sports an array of faux tattoos portrays the equally as determine but cool and collected police detective who aids in the recovery of the young victim. The film features an equally impressive ensemble cast including Viola Davis, Terrence Howard and Maria Bello.

Unlike many thrillers, whose villain can be spotted within the first hour of the film, Prisoners succeeds at keeping its viewers guessing who the culprit is throughout. And despite it’s sluggish pace Prisoners does a solid job at melding crime drama with psychological thriller and it does consistently throw interesting plot twists throughout.

While the film does not have a necessarily happy ending it does end on an open-for-interpretation note and for those who are fans of imagining their own endings you will surely enjoy this entertaining thriller. For those like myself, who prefer a finalized conclusion to a 146 minute long cinematic journey, you will find Prisoners lacking.

Bottom line: Prisoners is what it is. A dark, dramatic, emotional, crime thriller. If you are a fan of the genre it will serve you well. If you are a bigger fan of upbeat rom coms or happy films in general, my advice then is to wait until Prisoners is made available on NetFlix Instant, you will save yourself money and you won’t waste two and a half hours of a perfectly good afternoon.