Reel Shorts | Prisoners


This week in Reel Shorts, director Denis Villeneuve’s latest is examination of a man’s slow descent into madness as he tries to discover the whereabouts of his abducted daughter without losing his soul in Prisoners.

Audio Review

      Prisoners Review - FilmGordon Radio

Villeneuve follows up his emotional film, Incendies with this searing drama about two families and a determined detective trying to discover who abducted two little girls on Thanksgiving in a small Pennsylvania community. After a suspect, Alex (Paul Dano), has been identified and arrested by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), an incensed father of one of the girls, Keller Dove (Hugh Jackman) goes on a one-man crusade to grill the low-IQ suspect and obtain the whereabouts of his daughter and her friend.

After the police release him for lack of sufficient evidence and seemingly, with time running out, Keller enlists the aide of his friend and father of the other missing girl, Franklin (Terrence Howard) to follow the lead that the police can’t or won’t pursue. Loki, in addition to investigating other leads, also becomes suspicious of Keller’s motives – especially when Alex turns up missing as well.

Written by Aaron Guzikowski (Contraband), Prisoners feels like a cinematic noose that slowly tightens around your neck almost leaving you gasping for your collective breath and tying knots in your stomach.

While each character deals with their grief in different ways, each feels like they are living in their own individual emotional spaces of confinement. Keller becomes very aggressive and abusive, Loki, more determined and dogged than ever to solve this confounding puzzle, Howard and Viola Davis almost become catatonic and Maria Bello numbs the pain with drugs.

Every parent’s worst nightmare, what prevents Villeneuve’s story from being an instant classic is the over-long length that felt thirty too long and some scenes unnecessary. Overall, Prisoners is an amazing character study of how an evil act can expose what is inside of people and how a rush to judgment can be just as harmful.

Grade: B+