Movie Review: Prisoners

Hayden Mclaughlin, Contributor

Prisoners is a 2013 film directed by Denis Villeneuve. The movie has a stacked cast including Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, and Viola Davis. The cinematography of the film was highly regarded thanks to the direction of Roger Deakins. The cinematography received award wins from groups such as the Chicago Film Critics Association, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association award, as well as an Oscar nomination.  

The Dover and Birch families meet up for Thanksgiving dinner in a quaint suburban neighborhood. The young daughters of both families leave the Birch family household to go back to the Dover’s. However, after some time has passed the families grow worried and begin a search. After no sign of the kids, the missing children are reported to the police and the investigation is led by Detective Loki played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Loki locates a suspicious camper seen in the neighborhood and finds Alex Jones portrayed by Paul Dano. However, Jones only has the mental prowess of a ten-year-old child due to trauma caused by his abduction as a child. As Loki cannot track down the missing kids, Keller Dover(Hugh Jackman) begins his own hunt which leads him back to Alex Jones. The film examines the lengths that people will go for the ones they love. 

The story takes us to the small town of Clayton, Pennsylvania and does an immaculate job of capturing the vibe of small-town suburbia. The neighborhood feels all too real as if it could be the very one you live in. It makes you ask yourself if your neighborhood and town are really as safe as you imagine them to be. Abandoned mills and heavily wooded forests barren of leaves fill the background as the viewer has to envision where the kids could be. There is an excellent contrast from season to season as the film moves from the breezy fall to the chilling winter months. 

Every actor and actress put their hearts into this movie. Hugh Jackman plays the role of a desperate father perfectly, and Paul Dano rises to the occasion perfectly as the helpless victim of Jackman’s struggle for his family. Gyllenhaal delivers one of his best performances as well. When watching the movie closely, one can notice Detective Loki blinking quickly whenever he is on screen. This is due to Gyllenhaal believing that Loki was so obsessed with this case that he was rarely sleeping, and could barely stay awake. It demonstrates the tremendous detail that went into the acting and character development. 

  Jóhann Jóhannsson crafted the soundtrack for this movie and although it is slow-building, it perfectly encapsulates the tensions of the scene. The tense sounds of the piano and the guitar build up as the hunt continues. When watching the movie it is impossible not to notice the music because it takeing over the center stage. Jóhannsson’s work can also be heard in the films, Sicario, and Arrival

What lengths would you be willing to go in order to save those you love? Would you resort to letting the police and detectives handle the investigation? Some members of the film turn to religion as a method hoping that their children will come home if they believe. However, it is Jackman’s character that resorts to the wildest choice. Keller Dover turns to a more physical and psychological form of investigation. How can we make sense of what happens in this world? Alex Jones struggles to overcome the trauma caused by his abduction as a child. Bob Taylor, another abductee, chronically draws mazes in his home, because he cannot overcome the events of his childhood. 

Prisoners is a phenomenal movie that takes a deep look into human nature, and the intentions we have as people. The acting is stupendous, and one will be hard-pressed to find a better Hugh Jackman performance. The scenery and music of the film fit perfectly to create an excellent viewing experience.