I have very mixed feelings about this film. On the one hand it was far too long and way too slow, but on the other it brought some interesting plot turns and had quite a few small details to keep an eye on. The acting was phenomenal but the story didn’t give the actors many chances to express different emotions, and the pace of the film felt like wading through slush. Although I’m pretty sure I will never pop Prisoners in the DVD tray for a light evening flick, I can see how some people might enjoy re-watching it to find all the links in the chain. You see? I’m a little torn on a verdict for this one.
The one word that kept coming to me throughout the watching of this film was “deeeepressing”. Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is a loving father who keeps it together for about 12 minutes after his daughter and the neighbours’ daughter are kidnapped. After that, he is prepared to do whatever it takes to get her back, whether that means working with Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) or behind his back. Jackman’s desperation to bring his daughter home is palpable, and he screams, cries, and threatens his way to the information he needs. Gyllenhall, however, has a constant sense of urgent calm. Both characters get progressively more sleep-deprived as the film moves forward, and even though Keller doesn’t think Loki is doing everything he can, the detective works so tirelessly on his daughter’s case that he spends the entire movie in the same shirt.
According to the dialogue, the film apparently takes place over one week. And it sure felt like it. In my opinion, few movies should press a 2 ½ hour running time, especially not slow-moving investigative dramas. When Jackman yells, “It’s been six days!” I sincerely believed him. For me, Prisoners is aptly named because it takes a little patience to get to the end of the film and thus be released from the theatre.
There are quite a few puzzle pieces to put together, however, and in the end I was impressed at how well they all fit. The writers were thorough when thinking up this piece, and they tried to tie up as many ends as possible. But if you are at all sensitive to violence in films, I will warn you that the plot unfurls in the most gruesome of ways. It is a very quiet film, so when the violent moments pop up, they are much more startling and effective.
Speaking of effective, it seemed like Jackman spent half the movie screaming at people for answers he would never get. It was very frustrating to witness all methods of interrogation, torture, and coercion, and never see any results. I will say, though, when Jackman screams, “Where are they!” over and over at the top of his lungs, all I was hearing was Christian Bale’s Batman yelling at the Joker.
It is not a feel-good film in any respects. Not even close. Jackman and Gyllenhaal along with Terrence Howard and Viola Davis make up a very strong cast of actors, and they are all pushed to their limits at some point in the film. While I can’t say much about the sets or the cinematography except that the through-the-rainy-window shot was way overused, I can say that Prisoners is an emotionally troubled film. Since I am completely torn on whether it was dramatic or just depressing, I have to give Prisoners a 5/10. Don’t think of it as a low grade, just think of it as halfway between hopelessness and perseverance.