Sunday, September 15, 2013

“Prisoners” – Movie Review



This weekend, my movie class had another bonus screening, “Prisoners”, a crime thriller starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Maria Bello.


Once two little girls are missing, the father of one of them decides to hunt for the suspect on his own when he believes the police are failing – but will he be willing to do whatever’s necessary to find the girls?   


On Thanksgiving Day, Keller Dover (Jackman) and his brood head over to neighbor Franklin’s (Terrence Howard) house for both families to spend the holiday.  After their daughters run off to play together, they suddenly realize that no one can locate either one of them.   The police are contacted and Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) is assigned to the case.  Before long, Loki apprehends a suspect, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), who ultimately must be released when the police conclude that they cannot formally charge him with anything.  

Understandably frustrated and angry, Dover decides that since the police aren’t doing enough to find his daughter, he must take matters into his own hands, so he sets out for Jones himself.  Dover captures Jones and brings him to an abandoned ramshackle house where he tortures Jones in order to get a confession out of him.  But when the slow-witted Jones proves to be a tough nut to crack, Dover chooses to imprison him until information is forthcoming.  In the meantime, Loki is pursuing other leads that may turn up information about the girls since he’s convinced chasing Jones may ultimately turn out to be fruitless.

With several known sex offenders in the area of this rural Pennsylvania town, Loki follows-up on each one of them but turns out to be unsuccessful in obtaining any substantial information until one young man starts behaving in a suspicious manner.  At this point, Loki relentlessly chases after this new suspect while Dover has reasons to believe he may have suddenly discovered the person who might turn out to be the key to recovering both daughters.  But do Loki’s suspicions have any merit?  And if Dover is right about his latest hunch, is he truly capable of doing the unthinkable in order to bring his daughter home safely? 


How often have you seen a movie that was billed as a suspense that turned out not to be terribly suspenseful at all?  Or a horror flick that wasn’t all that scary?  For me, I know that’s happened far more frequently than I would like.  That’s why it’s such a delight to be able to report that “Prisoners” truly delivers on what it promises.  Excellent story telling technique from both the screenplay and the directing highlight this film, which is in no way intended to undercut some rather fine performances by its stellar cast.  This is a true thriller at its very best and is surely every bit as scary – if not more so – than any CGI – inflicted horror flick that Hollywood ever tried to produce. 

Misgivings about “Prisoners” are certainly few and far between and would truly be nitpicking – although to be honest, it is not a perfect film; some of the information occasionally gets a bit muddled along the way and there are some things that of course require a suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience, but if you’ve bought into the story by the point these incidents occur, it’s highly unlikely they will deter you from enjoying this motion picture, which is both satisfying and entertaining, right up until its eye-popping denouement. 

Prior to the screening, Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove – the film’s producers –were  were interviewed.  Kosove said that he and Johnson had met years ago when they were in college; neither one of them were studying filmmaking – instead, they majored in business.  Upon graduation, they decided to form Alcon, a production company, despite the fact that neither one of them knew how to make a movie.  He also made what I regarded as a rather astute observation – in most businesses, the practice is to discover a formula to make a successful product that is consistently reproducible.  When it comes to filmmaking, however, this is not the case; with each movie, you are starting up a new business with different goals and another set of employees.  In the business of movie making, there is no precise formula for success. 


Prisoners (2013) on IMDb 7.9/10519 votes



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