Movie Review: Prisoners

I had heard the film was good. Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal are starring and that's double the Hollywood hunkiness. Both Jackman and Gyllenhaal were guests on The Daily Show this past week, so I made up my mind. There I was, the first showing of the opening day. From there, things got weirder and weirder and in places I was feeling not just a little uncomfortable. Is evil evil? Or is evil psychotic or amoral? What in heaven's name motivates people? I'm sitting back in my apartment writing this up and as I look around, I quietly say to myself, "Whew, at least something is normal."

Of course, in the cold light of day, you have to wonder just what it is you've watched. Was it weird just for the sake of being weird? Are there real people as weird as some of the characters? In a nutshell, without any spoiler alerts, this is a film about two little girls being kidnapped and what the police and what one father do to track down the culprit. Hmmm, if you are a parent, would you go ballistic and lay a beatin' on anybody you thought was guilty? Just how inhuman would you become to get your little girl back? It occurred to me that normally, with a kidnapping, the perpetrator wants something, a ransom perhaps or revenge. But when your bad guy is evil as in crazy far from anything normal evil, the author now has a plot device to do just about anything they want. I'm coming back to that weirdness factor.

The acting throughout this film is terrific. The initial part of the film with its kidnapping has you immediately hooked and you want to figure out the mystery. Who did this and why? It's dark. It's brooding. There's a constant dread that something really really bad is going to happen but you just don't know what. Anybody who would kidnap a little girl has to be one sick puppy and you're shaking your head knowing this one isn't going to turn out too good. The police plod along doing their investigation, following procedure but is it fast enough when there are lives at stake? Apparently not if you're a parent and when dad number one goes rogue vigilante, you have to wonder if fight fire with fire also means fight evil with evil. The powers of darkness must be fought with darkness, police procedures be damned. What's left unsaid in the film is that any happiness at the end of the story is going to be tarnished by Dad having to pay the price. The law is the law even if you're supposedly the good guy.

While the story is well written, there are some twists and turns which went by so fast I didn't get them. It wasn't until later, in reading a synopsis of the plot, I got what I had missed. Was I not paying attention? These few oddities were thrown into the mix to be what? Just odd? I come back to the film being good but not quite terrific. Somehow the connection between the various parts of the mystery seemed a little tenuous and I had the feeling the author reached into a grab bag of plot devices and stirred into the mix whatever was lying around. Is this an original dish or a meal of leftovers? I don't mind an oddity or two but are they well connected to the whole? But, let me be clear that despite this personal peeve on my part, the acting was topnotch and brought the whole affair to life.

Final Word
This is a good film. The acting is superb. The plot keeps you engaged and there is this continuous apprehension about what's around the next corner. It sometimes gets disturbing. Just how far would you go to get your daughter back? I would recommend the film but keep in mind, this isn't your regular type of date night film. I would sum up in one word by saying, "Whoa!"

References

Rotten Tomatoes: Prisoners: 79%
Haunting, suspenseful, and masterfully acted, Prisoners has an emotional complexity and a sense of dread that makes for absorbing (and disturbing) viewing.

Wikipedia: Prisoners
Prisoners is a 2013 American crime thriller film directed by Denis Villeneuve, from a screenplay written by Aaron Guzikowski, and executive produced by Mark Wahlberg. The film stars Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard and Paul Dano. It premiered at the 2013 Telluride Film Festival.

official web site: Prisoners

 
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