A film described by many as intense and thrilling from start to finish. Based on the hype, I thought I was in for a hell of a ride. Instead, I got a film that took its time. But, while the film traveled at far from break-neck speed, it was certainly intense. At two and a half hours, it does not let you off easy. 

Prisoners’ stars include Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. Jackman plays Keller Dover, the head of one of two families that both lose their youngest daughters on Thanksgiving. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the oddly named Detective Loki, who is on a mission to find them. He is definitely the hard-man cop: neck tattoo, never lost a case, and willing inflict a little police brutality to get answers. Keller Dover is a devout Christian, always prepared for the worst, and willing to break the law, and some bones, to get his daughter back. 

Despite these two brilliant actors playing angry action-oriented men, the film does not feel like a cat-and-mouse chase towards the kidnapper. It is much more – to use a metaphor from the film – like a labyrinth. When one is at a dead end, the other is running in circles. At the same time, the puzzle is not overly complicated to the point of disbelief. Despite the fact that I have no real love for the crime-solving genre, I did actually “get it” fairly early, but the film still kept my interest as I had to know how the characters figure it out, and what would happen when they did. 

It is definitely a mystery, but director Denis Villeneuve draws out the characters well too. The acting capability of everyone involved shines through, and occasionally I was reminded a bit of one of my favourite films, Zodiac, in the way it takes its time. The fact that Jake Gyllenhaal also stars in that one probably helped. 

Prisoners is a very good movie. The characters are all believable and mostly three-dimensional. The solution, for once, is not underwhelming. Probably my biggest problem with most crime-solving films is that the ending never feels like it fit the puzzle, but this one does. I will admit a couple of scenes dragged on a bit, and I was a bit confused how a cop who had never failed to solve a case could be so bad at shadowing a guy, but overall it was a worth-while experience.

I also have to mention the cinematography and atmosphere. The dreary time of year with lots of rain really added to the feeling of oppression. There was one moment when we see a person in the dark, with only their right eye visible, and it stares right into the camera. It was such a sudden, incredibly creepy moment that I had to look away. Or maybe I just don’t like eyes in the dark. Prisoners has a lot of those intense moments, whether its creepy stares or total meltdowns. More than anything, the film really made me want to follow these characters to the end of the maze. 

Dice roll: 5  


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