‘Prisoners’ Captures Your Attention & Compromises Your Morality (Movie Review)

Prisoners TNYou ever have those moments in life where you first see a film’s theatrical trailer, having never known anything about it beforehand, and instantly “know” that it’s a film you want to see upon its release with no hesitations or second guessing?  Well, that’s exactly how I felt about the film we are all gathered here to talk about today, Prisoners.  I explicitly love movies that explore the morality of characters and push boundaries by asking the question how far would you go to save your family?  What is a person capable of?  It’s times like these when scruples are inconceivably tested and immovable obstacles suddenly become movable.  A real man will do whatever it takes to keep his family safe…even if that means compromising his morals and crossing that fine line of what’s right and wrong in life.  You know you shouldn’t, but you know no one else is going to do it.  You have no choice if you want a shot at saving the one you love.  The naysayers are always going to say nay.  Go get ‘em tiger!  So tell me…can you see now that these kind of plots really “move” me?  You picking up what I’m dropping?  Good!  I’m glad.  So with our lead in paragraph finally out of the way, let’s talk Prisoners!

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Prisoners, directed by Denis Villenevue from a screenplay written by Aaron Guzikowski and executive produced by Mark Wahlberg, premiered a day before my birthday on August 30th this year at the Telluride Film Festival.  The vigilante thriller film stars the famous clawed Aussie Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo and Paul Dano.  That’s quite an impressive line up, huh?  I think so!  And that’s what matters most.  In addition, prior to me even sitting down with this one on Tuesday evening, the film has garnered mostly positive reviews with some indicating universal acclaim.  However, I’ll be the judge of that.  Y’all ready?

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So picture this…you have a six-year-old daughter.  It’s Thanksgiving.  The family’s all over.  Everyone is merry and having a ball.  And then bam!  Where’s my kid at?  Your cousin says I just saw him playing with so and so outside in the yard.  What?!  I don’t see her anymore!  Sadly, you can instantly blame it on bad parenting, not knowing where your kid’s at, not being born with eyes in the back of your head, neglect…you name it, but what it always spells is T-R-A-G-E-D-Y.  This is what happens to Keller Dover’s (Jackman) daughter, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich), and her best friend Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons), Franklin Birch’s (Howard) daughter, on Thanksgiving day as they are…kidnapped.  And so our story begins…a story of two distraught families and a father who is hell bent on doing ANYTHING to find his daughter (exactly how I would be in a similar situation) and a younger detective in charge of the investigation, Detective Loki, brashly stands in his way.  Loki!  What a name, huh?  Where’s his staff?  Okay!  You win!  Bad joke!

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After an exhaustive search through the neighborhood streets, Keller’s son, Ralph (Dylan Minnette), mentions seeing an old RV around the time when Anna was taken.  This particular RV is owned by Alex Jones (Paul Dano).  I like this actor.  So you can imagine what goes down, right?  Mr. Dover dons the Batman tights and decides to take the law and justice into his own hands after his frustration levels with the law’s futile attempts go above 10.  You believe me?  Okay, well everything except the Batman tights is true and it’s nothing you haven’t seen in the trailers either.  Johnny Law takes in Jones, but they have nothing to hold him on and so our struggle begins.  Come on!  Y’all seen the previews and trailers.  You don’t need me to tell you what happens next because you already know.  However, it’s the way in which its done, carried out, filmed and wrestled with onscreen that transports Prisoners into darker quadrants not suitable for kids and even most adults too.  But that is the crux of the story…the fork in the road.  You must choose the path between good and evil.  It’s like Harvey Dent once said and it couldn’t be truer about vigilantes…and heck, it even applies to the characters in this film.  “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”  Does Dover have the right perp?  He believes he does.  Others have doubt in him.  I guess when you watch this your moral compass is going to be bouncing all over the place.  And that’s a good thing!  That means the former indie, new Hollywood director Denis Villenevue did his job effectively.  But what about the rest of the cast?  I’m glad you asked!

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I honestly thought this was one of Hugh Jackman’s strongest performances to date.  Yeah, I know.  A lot of peeps might refute that, but come on.  The guy sold me with all his foaming at the moments moments.  Through his tonal inflections I felt his pain and remorse at times.  He was a dad that would do anything it took to find the whereabouts of his missing daughter and he sold me on that.  Terrence Howard on the other hand, well what can I say?  The guy is always so mellow it’s hard to determine his emotional qualities at times.  However, both mothers, Maria Bello and Viola Davis, knocked their roles out of the park.  You seemingly can always expect quality from Bello, but it’s the reactions of Davis that had me most interested here…and of course…you will find out why…WHEN YOU SEE IT!  And that brings us to Gyllenhaal next.  I couldn’t help being reminded of Zodiac for some reason, but that’s not a bad thing.  It’s the methodological way his character goes about searching for the missing girls that is reminiscent of the film I guess.  But that’s neither here or there.  Prisoners is a film you must see.  If you have kids you MUST SEE this film if for nothing else so you understand what kind of sickos are out there in this cold, crude world and so you are painfully reminded to ALWAYS keep a close eye and ear on your kid’s whereabouts.  Prisoners does run a tad too long for its own good, but it kept me a “prisoner” in my seat (in a good way) wanting to know how this film was going resolve.  And when it did, I was quite satisfied.  Was justice ever served?  Whoa there bronco!  You’re just going to have to find out for yourself this weekend.  One thing’s for sure, Prisoners takes no “prisoners” in its execution.  Between the constantly butting of heads and non-cooperative tag team of Dover and Loki, they leave no stones unturned.  And just when you think you have it figured out…oh there might be a wrench or two in there that will bop you on the head to remind you that you don’t know everything.  Soul search no more, enjoy this morally compromising tale this weekend!

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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