Recently, my wife and I had a date night at a drive-in nearby where we watched Prisoners as part of the double feature. Prisoners is about the race against time hunt to find two daughters where anyone is a suspect with an ending sure to leave people frustrated. Is Prisoners the movie to go see or does seeing it make you feel like a prisoner, yearning for the credits to roll?
Sadly, yes to the latter.
The movie starts on Thanksgiving where we are introduced to the two families: Kelly (Hugh Jackman) & Grace Dover (Maria Bello) along with Franklin (Terrence Howard) & Nancy Birch (Viola Davis). The opening moments are warm, goofy and funny as it reminded me that my family is similar to these families on Thanksgiving, minus the drunk family member trying to play the trumpet. Shortly after, the two girls, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) and Joy (Kyle Drew Simmons) ask to go to the Dover home. Hours pass and the parents realize the kids are gone. Thus begins the 2 and a half hour long trek into Prisoners.
First, the acting in this movie is spot on. I couldn’t help but empathize for Hugh Jackman because I do not know how I would act if one of my children (well, future children) went missing. I found myself asking what I would do and how I would react. You could truly see how the missing of their daughters affected each of the parents, as well as the missing daughters’ siblings. I thought Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, Detective Loki, was a strong performance on a detective struggling with this case and trying his best to work within the bounds of the law to find these little girls. The “bad” person, who I won’t spoil, played an incredibly creepy yet was so subtle that it was unnerving and plants a little seed in the mind of the viewer that, if this happened to us, it could be anyone.
With that being said, I had a hard time getting involved in the story. Whether that is because I am not a parent myself, or other reasons, I just became extremely bored halfway through the movie. It got to a point where the movie just becomes incredibly depressing and hard to slog further into the movie. Only until the last act of the movie did I become really excited as pieces of the story fell together and the story really began to move forward full-steam. Unfortunately, by then, I was just left without energy from the previous depressing journey.
What I found interesting was the title of the movie and how it was so engrained with the characters. Hugh Jackman’s character was a prisoner to his family, in that he was fighting to find his daughter with everything he had, even it meant kidnapping a suspect and interrogating him, rather brutally, then becoming a prisoner to his own crime. His wife in the movie was a prisoner to despair of the loss of her daughter and can only find reprieve in anti-depressants and drugs. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character was a prisoner to his career as he desperately wants to find these missing girls but finds himself hitting brick walls. I’m not sure if this was an element meant to be in the movie but I find it so engrained within the characters that I truly feel the movie lived up to it’s title.
With that being said, I felt like a prisoner watching this movie. Despite the spot-on acting, I just could not get into it. And perhaps that was the idea: to take a look into this situation that is so tense and frightening and gut-wrenching that by the end, we feel just like the characters. I cannot say I would recommend this movie in the sense that I would evangelize everyone to go see this immediately. I would much rather tell someone to go see it because it is interesting but it is hard to sit through it entirely, at least for me.
At the end of the day, I give Prisoners an 8 out of 10.