Is it possible for a family to come together after a major tragedy or fall apart at the seams? What would you do to fix what was broken? That's part of the premise behind the DVD release of "Prisoners," which had one man going to great lengths to do just that for all of the wrong reasons. Overall, the movie's most prominent results was a shocking twist as to who the villain was and the fact that the ending left things on such an unsettled note without giving anyone too much closure.
"Prisoners" followed devoted family man Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) who loved being able to take care of his family and teach his son Ralph (Dylan Minnette) how to hunt deer as a way to fend for himself when the time comes. To celebrate Thanksgiving, Dover takes his family over to have dinner with their good friends Franklin (Terrence Howard) and Nancy Birch (Viola Davis). It also helped that the children got along well enough that they play together to leave the adults to their own devices. Unfortunately, both families weren't expecting for their younger daughters to go missing after they snuck off to play somewhere else. After hours of searching, the police was called to search for the missing girls. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) was tasked with finding the missing girls and who was responsible. Sadly, there were no leads, except for a mysterious van driven by the troubled Alex Jones (Paul Dano) in the neighborhood just before the girls went missing. Jones was unwilling to give answers and the police had nothing to hold him on. They let him go back to his aunt's (Melissa Leo) custody, while the department continued to search for the girls with very little to go on. Dover's growing anger continued to get the best of him as he struggled with helping his wife Grace (Maria Bello) cope with everything that happened. In an effort to find answers, Dover kidnapped Alex and proceeded to torture the truth out of him for days, even as the guilt started to set in that his recklessness could get his daughter killed. He sets to find the truth through a different angle, but he was unprepared for the answers that he was about to find. Will Dover be able to save his daughter or die trying?
In terms of questions, the movie posed a few big ones, but the biggest one involved the realistic possibility of how any reasonable person could break if someone applied too much pressure for them to handle. Jackman's Dover started off as an everyday regular guy who simply loved his family, but as the story progressed his extreme love for his family pushed him to doing things he never thought possible to another human being. It's hard to say what anyone would do if they had a child or a loved one missing. Would they allow the cops to go through all of the propert channels before taking action? Would they break the law themselves for answers? The movie's biggest emotional wallop came in the reveal of the film's main villain who truly abducted the two girls. The look on Jackman's face basically said it all, because it seemingly came out of left field. He registered a display of stunned silence as the kidnapper talked about what made them do this and how they would do it again in a heartbeat. There were various hints placed throughout the story as subtle clues to viewers, which might've overlooked until the very end because the details seemed insignificant until it all came together. The movie also managed a very fine balancing between family drama and a very dark crime thriller where there was always body count. Sadly, the movie's only missteps were the extra long running time and how flat the film's final scene was. The movie's pace started off a little slow in the beginning and then it quickly picked up momentum, but they lost when they seemingly ended a potentially strong final scene 5 minutes too early. It's better to show what happens instead of assuming what occurred.
As for breakout performances, Jackman and Bello led the pack as two struggling parents who were falling apart in different ways after their daughter's disappearance. Jackman embodied Dover as a mixture of anger, sadness and guilt over not being able to save his daughter. He was further away from his usual charming leading man roles, which was a welcome change of pace that showed viewers that he could go to truly dark places on-screen if he wanted to. Jackman's strongest scene involved his character when he was alone after torturing a would-be suspect and he started to realize that he could be making a mistake. He delivered a mixture of shock as he realized that he might have to kill his captive if he went just a little too far with his line of questioning. Sure, those torture scenes were very uncomfortable to watch, but Jackman seemed to convince viewers in his character's complicated reasons for his actions. Bello, on the other hand, had the challenging task of making her usually sidelined character a memorable one regardless of how long she was on-screen. At the start of the story, Bello embodied her character with a sense of playful humor to offset her usually grounded nature around her children. As the story progressed, she explored Grace's inability to cope with her daughter's disappearance. She registered Grace's pain without having to say a word as she laid in bed heavily medicated to numb her feelings. Bello's strongest scene came towards the end of the story after she received some good news. She put on a brave front for her children, but the character knew and somewhat accepted that her husband would go to jail for his actions. Hopefully, Jackman and Bello will continue to do movies of this caliber in the future, because they were capable of delivering strong performances. Only time will tell if that's the case.
Verdict: Jackman gives a powerful performance as a father on the edge of sanity as he breaks the law to find his daughter, but the biggest twist was the reveal of the movie's true villain.
DVD Score: 4 out of 5 stars
Movie Rating: R
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)