Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Far-fetched, but Tense.
When I heard the title Prisoners, the first thing my mind shot to was a well…prison. I’ll be honest when I say I really didn’t know anything about this film before I watched it other than the fact that it has three distinct actors that I love as well as the rest of the cast which all do a phenomenal job, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Not only was the idea to this film great, but the style in which it is filmed successfully exhibits a feeling of tenseness in the audience as well as reasonable confusion. Of course we’re getting too ahead of ourselves here, let’s first just talk about the plot.
Hugh Jackman plays Mr. Dover, a common man who likes to hunt with his son, and spend Thanksgiving at his neighbor’s house. Their neighbors, the Birch’s, are Dover’s close friends, and when their youngest daughters Eliza and Anna go missing, both families break down. Detective Loki, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, is on the case, but everywhere he turns, another dead end shows up. His one suspect has the I.Q. of a 10 year old, but Mr. Dover is sure he’s responsible. Is this just the rantings of a desperate man, or is there some truth to his assumption? What happens when Mr. Dover decides to take the law into his own hands?
Let’s face the facts, we’ve seen movies about kidnappings before. The first film that comes to mind is probably Gone Baby Gone. However, I don’t think we’ve ever seen something done quite the way this one was. It’s not even what happens in the film as much as it was how it was shot. Of course, the things that happened in the film are worthwhile to talk about, but we’ll get to that later. The way this film was shot was very…dramatic. The shots were slow, but the action on screen was relatively fast. The counter balance of the cinematography enhanced the viewer’s level of tension, and suddenly the film is more suspenseful in a good way. That suspense and tension is able to take a plot that’s a bit over-the-top, and make it very bearable.
The reason why I say it’s over-the-top is because it honestly is in terms of what’s believable. I’ve seen a lot of films focus on the determination and desperation of a lonely and scared parent, but what Mr. Dover ends up doing is beyond the line of belief. I can’t see a parent doing that…ever. Maybe in their minds, but it never goes past that unless there’s something deeply wrong with the parent. I also understand crimes of passion, but this also goes on for far too long. There was something about the nature of what he was doing versus how long he was doing it for that just didn’t make a lot of sense. It was pushing it, in my opinion.
Jackman did it well, I will say. I won’t say he did his role perfectly, because some of the scenes that required a complete emotional surrender, he didn’t deliver perfectly…but what he did was acceptable. Now, the rest of the cast was brilliant. Paul Dano is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. His performance, no matter how big or small, is always excellent. He knows how to dive into character and present it exceptionally well. As for a family dealing with a possible death in the family – my awards go out to Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, and Mario Bello. For different reasons, I believed they were going through actual torment. Bello really looked absolutely nuts, which is awesome.
For the most part, however, I was really impressed with the style of filmmaking. From the beginning of the film, you really are seeing through Mr. Dover’s perspective. You are pretty sure that this kid played by Dano was the kidnapper. Then, as Dover interrogates him, you still feel like you’re right, but at the same time, you start to question how sane you are for thinking the same thing. Maybe you’re wrong. Brilliant direction and pacing. However, there was one bit a little over halfway through that tries to throw you off. All I have to say is that in my mind, it didn’t take me long at all to figure out all of the pieces to that puzzle. They gave you all of the clues to figure it out, and if you don’t, they’ll tell you later…but I just felt a bit disappointed in the lack of unpredictability for that specific moment. The rest is absolutely fine.
Prisoners is a film that takes advantage of diverse film techniques in order to create tension from the viewer. The premise isn’t completely original, but the way that it is made is interesting enough to check out.