Prisoners – Review
From the Prisoners beginning I was amused that once again I would have to sit through a short period of directorial management of my thinking about the plot. What do I mean? You know a short series of stylized esthetic background hints typical of these types of crime films where they inject subtle images, sounds and meticulously emotional clues to warn us that there will be some dread and doom awaiting us very soon.
From the onset we see this cinematic management of our thoughts manifested by the father Keller (Hugh Jackman) with his early appearance and verbal offerings of some self developed somber philosophy of how a man’s virtue as a good provider for his family is connected to the very moment his son has killed a deer for their Thanksgiving dinner. Is this a clue?
The winter’s weather’s air seemly so thick the film appears to be in a perpetual state of gloom, gray and dreariness. The ground people walk on so abundantly extra murky, damp and eerily muddy. The peculiar sounds of the out of season rumblings of an approaching thunder storm in late November. The sudden appearance of a driverless van moving mysteriously slow with its decrepit aged exterior. The pursuit of a legitimate suspect at the darkness time of night in a drenching rain storm with guns and flash lights abound. The appearance of the suspect lacking both in handsomeness and mental acuity, all the while deliberately attired in unkempt clothing, disheveled oily hair and a pair of ugly oversized crooked eyeglasses. Is this another clue? Oh yeah we got our man, he’s got to be guilty, after all he just looks like a creepy criminal right?
Yes many cues, hints and clues, with many embedded suggestive visuals to set the audience’s mood would have you to believe this film wasn’t very good, but the fact is with all of this prerequisite manipulation Prisoners manages to settle down for a 2 and 1/2 hours of highly effective story telling on a very human emotional level the raw aspects of what is certainly every real life parent’s worse nightmare come true; that being the abduction and disappearance of their child.
Prisoners is about vigilantly frontier justice and it ultimately works inspite of it’s slightly overly elongated development of vigilantisms gone way too far. What keeps it from being a bit farcical or ridiculous is the director’s equal commitment to telling the police procedural aspects to this case portrayed very well by Jake Gyllenhaal character’s perspective as the lead investigative officer named Detective Loki. His story as he pursues the evidence trail seemed to be consistently honest, more calculatingly smart and the more grounded in reality through out. The Hugh Jackman’s character who plays the distraught father named Keller, who’s rage seemed initially legitimate and his angered genuinely honest, while initially effective seemed later in the film to run well beyond him having any credibility regarding his actions and his reasoning for doing them. As time went by he felt less and less of a sympathetic victim and more and more as someone spiraling into recklessness without any regard for the long term consequences. And while he grew to be a bit annoying to me, I still asked myself later was this part of his characters development intentional to antagonize me? Maybe, but in my estimation it went on a little too long.
Still, I found Prisoners to be well acted across the board especially by Paul Dano as the suspect named Alex. It’s not easy to create fresh strangeness in a potential villain these days but Dano is quite effective at being someone that we both despise and feel sympathy for.
On a side note, for some reason I could not stop thinking that when Dano’s character spoke he was doing a spot on imitation of Michael Jackson. Was this just coincidence given the subject matter? I am not sure. Still, Prisoners is a very well made film that I found emotionally intriguing bathed in that right balance of stress and tension, with an authentic sense of “who done it” in its execution.
3 –1/2 Stars