During a Thanksgiving outing, two young girls, Joy Birch and Anna Dover, go missing from their quiet suburb. As days go by, the police are forced to release the only suspect due to a lack of evidence. The resulting demand for answers forces the family members to descend into their own private hells. Desperate for resolve, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) takes it upon himself to do the unthinkable in order to find his daughter. Meanwhile, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) also breaks to the point of obsession as he faces the guilt wrought by these suffering families.
Prisoners is simply a solid, visceral film. The labyrinth motif makes its way through every facet of the story, to the point where it almost makes you want to throw up. Almost, considering how the concepts transcends through the literal and internal. And I think it’s fair to say that it’s not just mazes for the sake of mazes: we’re talking about some twisted psyches here – which leads me to the presentation of the film.
I found the plot structure admirable, considering that it does not play out like the average kidnapping suspense. The pace is slow (sometimes a little too slow), building and calculative, and you essentially only get the story from Loki or Duller’s perspective (okay, except for this one time), which better draws the viewer into this descent.
I found the story (as well as its finer details) not only to be original, but also believable. For instance, when Keller tortures suspect Alex Jones (Paul Dano), the torture is sloppy, brutal, and honestly frightening. Keller is practically a living portrait of desperation. Furthermore, we’re met with a new breed of killer – not just a rehashing of real life horrors.
Gripping and unapologetic, Prisoners is a fantastic suspense feature. And though the payoff isn’t as explosive as the usual American thriller (I just wanted a bit more exposition – maybe I’m just greedy), the original mythos and the momentum of the piece is something truly admirable.
Final Grade: A