Movie Review: Prisoners (2013)

Posted: May 24, 2014 in Drama


Anna Dover (Erin Gerasomovich) and Joy Birch (Kyla Drew-Simmons) are little girls kidnapped by someone driving a recreational vehicle.  Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal  finds the RV in short order, and inside the vehicle is a mentally challenged young man named Alex Jones. (Paul Dano)  Loki arrests Alex, but cannot hold him for lack of evidence.   In stunned disbelief, Anna’s father, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) begs Loki to detain Alex, but he can’t.  After hearing something suspicious from Alex at a press conference, Keller takes matters into his own hands.  He kidnaps Alex and tortures him for a confession.  Alex doesn’t seem to comprehend what is happening to him.

While Keller is trying to get a confession in his own way, Loki is following different clues, which results in the arrest of Bob Taylor (David Dastmalchian) who makes a habit of buying children’s clothes, and mannequins.  So who has taken these girls, and who is vindicated in his investigation of this crime, Loki or Keller?

I did not like Prisoners.  It tries to be much more than it is.  There are all kinds of religious symbolism, the first lines in the movie are the Lord’s Prayer, there are crucifixes in the RV, a suspicious priest. I don’t know if the religious overtones are meant to illustrate a Job like parable of a man of faith being tested, an indictment of Christianity, or a crass marketing ploy to draw religious people into the movie. This movie explores torture too, there are scenes reminiscent of the torture or Iraqi prisoners during the Iraq war, that couldn’t have been accidental.  Again, is this to draw buzz to the movie and get people opposed to the torture in Iraq to come see it?  I found that part of the movie manipulative.  I also found the torture scenes to be excessive and gratuitously violent.  For such a serious movie, Prisoners has some major lapses in logic.  Loki seems to be the only cop in town, he has to find the kidnapper, interview a second suspect, keep an eye on Keller, and find the first suspect, who’s suddenly disappeared.  And the last 30 minutes, there is a plot twist that is so mind-bendingly stupid, I was left to scratch my head and think, what the hell just happened?

It is the acting that kept me watching, even as the script grew more ludicrous, particularly strong were the performances by Jackman and Gyllenhaal.  Jackman gives a mostly low-key performance, and he is a somewhat sympathetic character, even given the horrific things he has to do.  Gyllenhaal plays a character trying to investigate this crime by the book, and running into dead ends wherever he turns.  I was shocked at how blandly Terrence Howard played his character.  He was hard to watch.  Melissa Leo is wasted, in heavy makeup, as Alex’s mother.

The story is much too long, 2 ½ hours, and there were lots of slow spots. This is not a movie for kids there is a lot of graphic violence and torture, definitely not family fare.

The Prisoners.  Torturously long.


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