#237 – Prisoners (2013)

From 600,576 votes, Prisoners has an 8.1/10 rating from the users of IMDb.

When Keller Dover’s daughter and her friend go missing, he takes matters into his own hands as the police pursue multiple leads and the pressure mounts.

I can’t really say that Prisoners is up there in my list of greatest films of all time. I first saw Prisoners during its initial theatrical release in the Vue cinema of Swansea. I saw it with the flatmates that I lived with during my first year of university, a group of lovely people whom I simply do not talk to anymore because sometimes life does that to you. But anyway, the movie.

This is the last time you’ll see these two smiling.

Prisoners is a thriller about two kidnapped little girls and the efforts of two men who try to find out what has happened. The first: Keller Dover, the father of one of the girls and all-round basketcase and violent douchebag. He’s played by Hugh Jackman, and would be the eye candy of the film if it wasn’t for the second man: Detective Loki, the ‘weird’ loner cop with a strong moral streak who is played by the wonderful Jake Gyllenhaal.

I’ll say this, the film is worth watching. It’s a mystery thriller that runs for two and a half hours so it has all the twists and turns you’d expect. It’s a very good experience – the first time through. Upon rewatching it, I can’t help but cringe at the missed clues, odd foreshadowing and gratuitous violence that this film contains.

I am a hole, sir

A very notable scene is when Keller locks up someone with the magic of his clumsily foreshadowed over-preparedness and carpentry skills, and then proceeds to beat the poor guy to a pulp. The movie then makes you feel more and more sorry for the victim, and it all feels gross. This is a film that had to have scenes of violence removed to stop it being rated NC-17 in America. It’s that bad. The director, Denis Villeneuve, must be to gratuitous violence what Michael Bay is to gratuitous explosions or Quentin Tarantino to gratuitous foot shots… or gratuitous violence. It’s off-putting.

In addition, the film sometimes teeters on the edge of being a bit too unrealistic, with the villain’s motives being batshit insane and the latent theme of, for some reason, the zodiac being present, it makes a second run of the movie just a step too unwatchable.

Are the zodiac symbols important? The film would like you to think so but eh… nah, not really.

I will however reiterate: this is a very fun watch the first time through and it will have you on the edge of your seat for much of it, quite in the same way as Gone Girl (2014) or Midsommar (2019). I’ve written this from the point of view of someone who has already seen it once and found himself checking how long was left of the movie every now and then while re-watching it, but I can’t stress that this is a good movie and well worth the price of admission. Both leads get to strut their stuff excellently in this, and Paul Dano (There Will Be Sunshine, 12 Years a Slave) takes a complex role and absolutely demolishes it, honestly.

Quote of the movie: Look, kid, we can’t always save the day. All right? We’re just cops. Janitors.


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