Being a parent of young children, the plot of PRISONERS hits home. It tells the story of neighbors whose young daughters go missing after a loving Thanksgiving dinner. From there it devolves into the ethics and morality of what you would do as a parent to get your child back alive.
Much has been said about Hugh Jackman’s ferocious performance as one of the fathers who resorts to the unthinkable to insure his daughter’s safe return. Even as Wolverine we haven’t seen this intensity from Jackman who continues to be a powerhouse performer. Jake Gyllenhaal plays his foil as Detective Loki who plays everything by the book and under control almost as his name means “low key” literally. The Detective is sympathetic to the couples but does little to comfort them on an emotional level. He doesn’t take into account that desperation can lead one to make unwise decisions and this ultimately causes more heartache and loss.
The film is well made but it doesn’t quite add up for me. The biggest problem is that it is overly long at 2 hours and 25min. I was already checking my watch 30 minutes in and that’s not a good sign. Also the ending feels a little out of left field. It makes sense in the context of the film, but there was something unsatisfying about the final revelation. Without giving anything away, the mechanics of the ending didn’t quite gel, as I didn’t really understand the full motivation or the rationale for how the kidnapper operated.
My other big gripe was that a lot has been said about the morality of the story; that we as the audience would participate in whether what Jackman does is justified or not. (POSSIBLE SPOILER) It occurred to me that none of his actions truly affected the plot or investigation. So if that’s the case, it’s hard to have an opinion of the ethics or morality of it when he didn’t actually succeed with his intended goal because of these actions.
Ultimately the movie is a mixed bag. I feel Clint Eastwood’s MYSTIC RIVER is a much better exploration of these themes, but PRISONERS still has its merits and is a very powerful and effective film even for its missteps.