Release date: Sept. 20, 2013
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Aaron Guzikowski
Official website: prisonersmovie.warnerbros.com
How far would you go to protect your family? This is only one of the questions posed by director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski in this powerful and tense drama about a man who will stop at nothing to bring his daughter home after she is abducted.
Hugh Jackman plays Keller Dover, a hard working family man with a wife (Maria Bello) and two kids who love and respect him with all they have. Dover has built a simple life for himself and his family. Like a boy scout, he is prepared for anything and everything that he can possibly imagine. Unfortunately for him, it's the unimaginable that sends his life into a tail spin and forces him to do unspeakable acts to rectify the situation.
On Thanksgiving, Keller and his family plan on spending the holiday with his best friend Franklin (Terrance Howard) and his family. These two families share everything and what begins as a celebration, turns into tragedy when heir daughters, Anna and Joy head out to play and never return. Immediately, an investigation is launched by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), who up until now, has never walked away from a case unsolved.
The film begins its downward spiral when the prime suspect, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), is released from police custody because of a lack of solid evidence, despite the fact that all signs seem to point to his guilt. Keller takes it upon himself to take Alex hostage, hoping to torture the truth from him before Anna and Joy become yet another sad statistic in child abduction cases. Even as other suspects begin to surface, Keller remains stedfast that Alex is knows where Anna is.
The film is a truly terrifying nightmare and worst case scenario for any parent. Director Denis Villeneuve, making his Hollywood studio feature debut, pulls us into the mind of Keller Dover, as he slips slowly into madness, obsessing over his own prisoner, Alex, while suspicion begins to fall on him when the police realize Alex is now missing too. The film dives into the morality of how far one man can go to track down a criminal without becoming one himself.
The cast is brilliant and everyone, especially Jackman and Melissa Leo as Alex's adopted mother, turn in intense and emotional performances. One of them, if not both, could definitely snag an Oscar nomination. The film is sure to keep you guessing from the opening moments, as it weaves you through the maze of plot twists and terrifying discoveries along the way.
Of course, the movie is far from perfect. If you've watched enough police dramas, it will be easy to spot all of the lapses in logic used by the police in their investigation. Applying a little more common police sense here and there would have easily trimmed about 30 minutes from the two and half hour running time. At times, it gets a little far fetched as the twists pound away relentlessly at the characters and to an extension, the audience.
But this is only a small problem with the film and never gets in the way of the mind scrambling puzzle the film becomes as it steam rolls to the shocking conclusion.
Stay up to date by subscribing to my Movie Examiner column at the top of the page and you'll get my articles and reviews sent right to your e-mail.