Prisoners: a tragedy and maze of events

Prisoners-Jake-Gyllenhaal-Hugh-JackmanLAST FRIDAY it was my turn to take on the task of reviewing of this week’s film at the Commodore. I must admit, I made a lot of assumptions based on the trailer. I expected a dark, psychological drama, with joint stories shared between an emotionally distant but ultimately determined police detective and a grief-stricken father who is distraught over his missing child.

The trailer shows the kidnapper being released over lack of evidence, leading to the father taking matters into his own hands through kidnap and torture. In many respects, that is what the movie is about. I didn’t, however, expect the film to turn into Zodiac about a third of the way in. This is a change I can only thank the movie for, I’m not sure I could of handled a three-hour psychological epic over a man so overcome with grief he results to torture. Instead, being a fan of dark detective stories, I was in for a treat – apart from the torture… that was gruesome.

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is your stereotypical rural working class American: hunter, survivalist and carpenter by trade. Whilst he and his family are visiting his close friend (played by Terrence Howard) the situation takes a turn for the worse as they face every parent’s worst nightmare: their daughters go missing. Quickly suspecting the eerie RV the girls were playing in, the police hastily track it down, along with the driver, Alex Jones, a man with the IQ of a child. However, due to lack of evidence, he is soon released which leads Keller to take matters into his own hands. Meanwhile Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) investigates the kidnapping and begins to realise that the case may be bigger than they originally thought, leading to a maze of events with some well-placed twists and turns.

During the two-and-a-half hour run-time the film descends through the dark, heartbreaking subject of child abduction to the difficult-to-watch torture scenes and eventually leading to the downright bizarre. The film has a strong cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard and Paul Dano play their parts superbly, parts which are all very difficult roles to play.  Hugh Jackman has always managed to pull off the ’emotional baggage’ role in a majority of his of films, with characters such as Jean Valjean and even Wolverine to quite an extent. Keller Dover appears to be the personification of the ideal working class American dad; a man who can hunt, kill, and cook his own meal, possessing extensive carpentry and survivalist skills but is also very caring and protective of his children. Terrence Howard, however, surprisingly doesn’t get as much screentime as he deserves, considering he is very talented and his character’s daughter is also missing, which is quite a shame as he is a very strong supporting character who also has to face extreme emotional turmoil, as well as difficult decisions.

Ultimately though, this is a story of two characters and an unusual kidnapping, both trying to reach the same goal, both using their own methods but standing in each other’s way. The development of the case is very gripping and kept me guessing right up till the end, and throughout it tactically asks the moral question about how far you’d go to save a loved one. At times it’s very dark, with quite a few scenes you might turn your head at.

I do have to fault the ending however; the film comes so close to having this great, almost Shakespearian type tragedy end about a man becoming his own downfall, but it was ruined at literally the very last second. I won’t go into any more detail though and ruin it for any potential viewers! If you enjoy your detective movies and can brave the dark subject matter, I would definitely recommend watching.

Prisoners is out now at the Commodore, check out the listings here.