Review: Prisoners

Hugh Jackman, Prisoners 2013
Hugh Jackman in Prisoners.

Hollywood Dad Goes On A Rampage
Rating: ***

Definition of Hollywood Dad: The paternal character who sets out to find justice on his own through vigilantism and hence falls prey to the law.

Having not seen other critic favourites such as 12 Years A Slave, Nebraska, All Is Lost and American Hustle, I come to think if Prisoners could be 2013’s best motion picture. If the 150-minute run-time was trimmed by at least 10-15 minutes, it would have received an extra star or maybe two – the highest honour this blog can offer.

The last mystery film that kept me emotionally charged the way Prisoners did was probably Roman Polanski’s Ghost Writer. Both dramas are excellently penned. While the latter was adapted from a novel, Prisoners is an original screenplay.

I can relate to Keller Dover, the character played by Hugh Jackman in this mystery drama. He’s a family man who enjoys deer hunting with his son, whom he grooms to be like himself, just the way his father groomed him to be. “Plan for the best, prepare for the worst” this line of dialogue plays an integral role in the film. Dover finds out that his daughter has been kidnapped, and much like most Hollywood dads, he goes in search for her by following the lead suspect – a young man named Alex Jones, who supposedly has the IQ of a 10-year old.
The lengths he goes to pump the truth out can be compared to the torture scenes in Zero Dark Thirty. But, that sums up director Denis Villeneuve’s motive. He wants to depict – the lengths any man would go to find his daughter. Classic Hollywood dad!

Halfway through the film, you find yourself rooting for Dover, hoping he is able to extract the truth. That’s when screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski introduces a twist in the tale, which breaks upon you like a guilt trip. Perhaps Mr. Guzikowski was waiting to trap you in all that guilt.

The plot twists confuse you infinitely. This film is worth the conversations you are bound to have afterwards. That’s when you put the pieces together and find out what Prisoners is really about. In fact, the story is never completed. The ending scene is a prime example to this – Detective Loki (what’s with the Asgardian name?) stands in the cold, wondering whether that whistling sound was real or not. Does he find out where the sound came from? Do the characters realize their mistakes? The film ends abruptly leading us to make our own endings.

While Jackman has shown us that he is an entertainer, Prisoners has him displaying something we’ve never seen before. He doesn’t emote the way Wolverine does. He emotes the way a real man would. The melancholy that sweeps him, the abstinence we feel when he’s broken, everything makes him a fine choice for an Oscar nomination.

Jake Gyllenhaal sure seems to have come a long way from Donnie Darko or even Brothers, the forgotten drama that also starred Tobey Maguire. But seriously dude, what’s with that delusional blinking? It’s like you’re on coke all the time.

The picture I painted at the start of this review may be deceptive by now. Do I love or hate this movie? The three-star rating doesn’t mean I’ll watch this movie a thousand times. Prisoners will be a rare watch for me again. Not because it’s average, but because the next time I see it, I’ll view it in a different way, much like the way we all felt about Skyfall or even Inception. The film joins the ranks of other thrillers such as Gone Baby Gone, and even Frozen River, another fine film that starred Melissa Leo, who plays the cocky, yet amusing character in Prisoners.

Prisoners draws a fine line between good and evil. And till the third act, we much like the characters in the film believe that we’re doing the right thing. But, what happens in the end, is an unwashed sin.


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