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PRISONERS Movie Review: A Whodunit Mystery

In PRISONERS, Keller Dover’s (Jackman) daughter goes missing along with a neighbor’s daughter over the Thanksgiving holiday. Gyllenhaal is Detective Loki, the department’s best detective assigned to the case.  One takes the legal means of solving the case, while the grieving father takes matters into his own hands as a vigilante. Watch Trailer

PROS

Double the Trouble
-Following two characters versus just one, made PRISONERS more watchable. If the film simply followed Dover’s character as he digresses further into desperation and torture, the movie could have become something else, but balancing these two personalities in the story kept the suspense going and the clues to the puzzle alive.  Both actors played well off each other.

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Anger Issues
-Hugh Jackman as a desperate father is not a pretty site. He does questionable things that obviously made the audience gasp.  We’re used to seeing him angry as Wolverine, but keeping his shirt on for this one reminded us he’s playing a regular Joe Schmo with anger management issues.  

-Jake Gyllenhaal is equally fierce as a cop, but in the usual cop brutality we’re used to seeing.  His character was hard to figure out, and you’re left wondering what’s this guy’s backstory since there are signs that this guy wasn’t always straight-laced.  That ambiguity was intriguing.

Weirdo
Actor Paul Dano once again plays an akwardly-social character, but this one is definitely his most disturbing. As suspect Alex Jones, you’re not sure if this guy is a killer or an innocent bystander with limited mental capability.  The Jeffrey Dahmer-look certainly makes you think he’s guilty.  But is he?

Morbid Factor
-The subject matter of kidnapped children isn’t exactly Hollywood fare, and it did strike an uncomfortable feeling when details about the crime start to surface, but it almost served as a plus in that we’re not used to seeing a big studio film tackle.   One person compared it to Se7en in that it’s dark and morbid, but this was less sinister than the David Fincher movie. PRISONERS hits closer to home in that this could happen to you and would you go to extremes like Jackman’s character.

Puzzle Solving
The complex, plot driven story had this viewer thinking on her feet and solving the puzzle. The story engages the viewer in that like the protagonists, you are using the process of deduction to figure out who really kidnapped the children. But then they would sidetrack you with new information that throws off the scent.  Although mad at the time, in retrospect the fact that they fooled you is a plus.

Surprise Twist 
The ending is not what you expect and that's all we can say without giving it away.

Prisoners-Jake-Gyllenhaal-Hugh-Jackman-image

CONS

Crime Solving Skills
Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) is a terrible detective.  There is one obvious clue he fails to recall and doesn’t add up the little details as he goes along. Perhaps that’s on purpose so that the audience also feels the urgency of this detective putting two and two together. Still, I like to boast I had it all connected mid-way until they threw a wrench into my theory.  

And then he trails Dover and you finally think he will catch him in the act, but his lousy driving gets him spotted.  Come on, guy!  

Weak Female Characters
Maria Bello and Viola Davis are quality actors who get minimal screen time even though they are the mothers. The men are clearly the heroes, while the women are the defenseless mothers who can only hope that their daughters will be found.  Maria Bello spends her time sedated in bed, occasionally peaking out as a weeping mess, while Viola does serve a purpose in that she sanctions the violence by Jackman’s character and simply walks away. As usual, the women’s place is in the home, according to Hollywood. Melissa Leo's performance was equally good, but again her role was reduced to a couple of scenes.


Too Long
Like the parents, viewers want to figure out the conclusion.  There’s a lot of details thrown at you which you have to process.  It feels like a long movie, but you don’t feel the zap until it finally ends. At least you’re grateful that you get a movie that makes your brain work rather than sedate you.

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