A suspenseful thriller with a star studded cast including Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano, Prisoners is the story of the abduction of two young girls, and the efforts of their families and the police to find them.
Having not been a fan of Hugh Jackman’s latest works in cinema (Wolverine, Wolverine, Wolverine) I was a little bit sceptical about him being cast in one of the leading roles. Fortunately though, he comes through as Keller Dover, the father of Anna Dover, one of the abductees. Jackman’s performance as a father who is willing to risk and lose everything to find his daughter sets the tone for the entire film. Jake Gyllenhaal must also be praised for his performance as Detective Loki, who is assigned the mysterious abduction case. Like Keller, Loki goes to great lengths to get what he needs, often threatening his suspects violently in order to get a confession. Though these two characters are quite similar, it is interesting to note that Loki is doing these things from behind a police badge, and so when he discovers the things that Keller has done, he is obliged to confront him about them. The relationship between these two characters also highlights the tense understanding between families and police during cases of abduction. Paul Dano’s performance as Alex Jones – the stunted young man who becomes Keller’s prime suspect – is also worthy of note. The ambiguity of his character is just fantastic, especially in his scenes with Keller, when it feels so many times like one of them will find their breaking point.
The pacing of the narrative in this film is nothing short of amazing. When it starts, it quickly builds straight into the suspenseful abduction of Joy and Anna. After this, the film appears to slow down quite considerably, while still maintaining an uneasy sense of danger and suspense. The story builds very slowly to its finale – some might say that this kind of pacing causes a film like this to lose its suspense, but I disagree; I think that a slow-working, intelligent thriller like this keeps its audience constantly on edge, as I was. This is especially true with the portions that are presented from Keller’s point of view, as his character is shown to be particularly conflicted.
This film is great. It combines an amazing story with well-rounded characters, coupled with the performances given by the actors playing them to create a very powerful experience. My only criticism is that the Birch family (the mother and father of Joy, one of the abducted girls) could have been given more detail and screen time. Having said that, I did enjoy the scene featuring Keller, Alex, Franklin Birch and his wife Nancy when they discover Keller’s secret investigation of their daughter’s abductions. This was just a small speck on an amazing film, so please go see it. It’s about time we all gave Hugh Jackman another chance – and I promise you, he doesn’t squander it.