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[tab title="Movie Review"]

Prisoners - Movie Review

4 stars

Oscar-nominated director Denis Villeneuve teams up with Oscar nominees Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal in Prisoners, a twisting thriller that – while involving – is not nearly as smart as the screenplay thinks it is.  For the careful observer, much of Prisoners is child’s play involving nowhere-minded mazes and some seriously grimy red herrings.  Yes, we’ve seen this type of picture before; we just never got this deep of a glimpse at the families of the victims…especially when they go to extremes and take the law into their own hands.

From the start, the screenplay from Aaron Guzikowski (Contraband) wears itself proudly as heavy duty, real life, missing persons stuff.  Jackman and actress Maria Bello play one pair of parents whose little girl goes missing on Thanksgiving Day, Terrence Howard and Viola Davis the other pair.  Things, rather quickly, get desperate  for the two couples as Jackman – unimpressed with the real police investigation conducted by Gyllenhaal’s maverick cop (in a seriously great performance) – decides to quickly take matters into his own hands and go after a sweaty Paul Dano (who is also excellent) as the man-child suspect behind the kidnappings.

Of course, there is more to the story – involving past kidnappings, priests, and a lot of snakes – that shouldn’t be discussed here, but none of it is all that surprising – especially if your eyes are glued to the screen.  And certainly nothing compares the torture Dano is put through as two fathers attempt to find out the whereabouts of their daughters.  Prisoners is just this close to becoming torture porn.  For some, it will be.  Others will be cheering on the fathers and their vigilante muscle-flexing.

What you won’t see is that much of the females.  Anchored by a commanding performance from Gyllenhaal and an emotional one from Jackman, there’s little room for the powerhouse of female talent in Davis and Bello to truly explode.  Oh sure, they get their individual bone to gnaw on here and there but none of it truly matters to the rage and meat hurled into the air by the men of the picture.  And that is a shame.  It is here – with the females – where Prisoners could have truly shined and dared to do something different.  Unfortunately, only Melissa Leo – in age makeup – gets that chance and she slides her character a bit too far into caricature mode.

An error the movie makes is in its reliance on sheer coincidence in order to connect the dots it has thrown about.  Those types of thrillers get old – especially in this day and age – quickly.  Watching Gyllenhaal work is both interesting and exciting and his performance is electric; how he uncovers the truth is simply lazy and obvious.  In one scene, he literally destroys his desk in the office and stares at the mess he has made and discovers a clue he hadn't noticed before.  It also becomes a bit tedious as the dumb luck trumps actual deduction.

While improbability rules the court for most of Prisoners game time, Villeneuve’s choices in slowing the script down in order to enhance mood and create a more subdued and naturalistic setting only enhance the movie.  In less experienced hands, Prisoners would never be able to disguise itself as anything more complex than a simple thriller.  Under Villeneuve’s guidance, it can, at the very least, pretend.  But, rest assured, it’s the technical nuances that Villeneuve adds that makes this picture spooky and every bit as barren as its moral center suggests.  Prisoners, to a degree, is a victim of its own hype as very little of its actual success comes from the story.

That being said, there’s a nicely done and totally unsettling ending that makes this release somewhat memorable.  I applaud Warner Bros for not interfering with the director’s vision.  It truly is the only way to end a story about torture.  Most audiences – wanting justice and that “feel good” satisfaction – will hate the choice.  But, in my opinion, the ending is the only part of Prisoners that is unconventional and – without a doubt – totally saves the picture from itself.  There's your extra star for what would have been a three-star picture.

Audiences might be suckered into believing that what they are watching is truly complex, but another Se7en this is not.  It’s both serious and grim but – as littered with red herrings as it is – Prisoners seals its own fate as merely good seasonal crime fiction with strong performances and direction to distract from its shortcomings.  Perhaps then the true power of the movie comes not from the actual picture in and of itself, but from the unsettling conversation that its ending is sure to foster between those who actually see it.[/tab]

[tab title="Film Details"]

Prisoners - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout.
153 mins
: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Aaron Guzikowski
Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis
Genre: Drama | Thriller | Crime
Every moment matters
Memorable Movie Quote: "There was this RV, they were playing on it. We thought there was someone inside."
Warner Bros.
Official Site:
Release Date: September 20, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
Own Prisoners on Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital Download 12/17.

Synopsis: How far would you go to protect your family? Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is facing every parent’s worst nightmare. His six-year-old daughter, Anna, is missing, together with her young friend, Joy, and as minutes turn to hours, panic sets in. The only lead is a dilapidated RV that had earlier been parked on their street. Heading the investigation, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrests its driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), but a lack of evidence forces his release.[/tab]

[tab title="Blu-ray Review"]

Prisoners - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - Own Prisoners on Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital Download 12/17
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; Digital copy; DVD copy
Enter for a chance to win a copy of Prisoners on blu-ray

This is an intentionally bleak, colorless movie with most outdoor scenes taking place in a dreary, snow-covered grayness and the interiors shot in an equally drab and desaturated palette. Expecting to show off the color capabilities of your hi-def system is a useless endeavor here. However, every frame is clean, sharp, and crisp while Roger Deakins's cinematography pops with breathtaking clarity. The many night scenes are always inky black with virtually no signs of digital compression or delineation. It's a flawless transfer.

Prisoners blu-ray is certainly not going to knock your socks off with its visual aesthetic, but true to its mood, the transfer will certainly toss you into Denis Villeneuve's sick and twisted world.



  • There is none.

Special Features:

Here's where Warner drops the ball, big-time. With no commentary, no meaningful special features, and certainly none in high-definition, it's hard to recommend a buy for Warner's blu-ray presentation of Prisoners.

Only two short featurettes. That's it. They are as follows:

  • Every Moments Matters (03:00) - Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal explore the tense relationship between Keller and Loki.
  • Powerful Performances (09:00) - Get up close and personal with this all-star cast


[tab title="Trailer"]