Kept in the dark. Prisoners: A review.

Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo, and Maria Bello star in David Villeneuve’s suspense-thriller Prisoners.

Depicting an unsettling and bleak view of suburban America, Prisoners is a torturous test of one’s own morality, whilst provoking feelings of dread and horror.

Running at nearly two and a half hours, Prisoners can leave you feeling drained through a mix of almost unbearable tension and exhaustive intensity. However, this is what allows the narrative of the film to play out so successfully; as the gruelling process of detective work, lack of any concrete evidence as to who is the culprit, and the harrowing experience of a missing child, takes its toll not only on the characters but also on the audience, making the experiences a whole lot more believable. 

Set in a misty suburban town, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and his wife Gracie (Maria Bello) are relaxing with friends when his daughter, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich), and her friend, Joy (Kyla-Drew Simmons) disappear. After hours of searching their only lead is an RV owned by Alex Jones (Paul Dano) which was seen parked up nearby an abandoned house at time of the girls’ kidnapping.

Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) heads up the investigation, arresting Alex but subsequently letting him go due to lack of evidence. Furious with the police and Loki, Dover takes matters in to his own hands in a quest to find his daughter before it is too late.

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Prisoners boasts exceptional performances from the film’s three main characters; Dover (Jackman), Loki (Gyllenhaal), and Alex (Paul Dano). Jackman delivers an intense and hugely emotional performance, rivalling that of his showing in Les Miserables (2012).

Gyllenhall’s mature performance is more than convincing in the role of the slightly arrogant and edgy Detective Loki.

Yet, it is Paul Dano’s performance as Alex Jones; the young man with an I.Q. of a ten year old, who steals the show. Dano’s quirkiness, as seen in There Will Be Blood (2007) alongside Daniel Day Lewis, is toned down in Prisoners, allowing his appearance and helpless demeanour to take centre stage, further displaying his ability to play characters at opposite ends of the bizarre-spectrum.

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(Paul Dano as Paul Sunday/ Eli Sunday in There Will Be Blood.)

From the very beginning the intensity of Prisoners never lets up and becomes a guessing game as to what atrocities will be found and how far people will go. At a glance Prisoners may seem like an average suspense-drama or police procedure film however, you’d be wrong.

Villenueve’s gripping piece provokes the audience to draw an imaginary line of morality where they must decide which side of the line to stand on, whilst preying on the thoughts and fears surrounding the story of a missing child, keeping you engaged and involved from the off-set.

Prisoners more than exceeds expectation, keeps you guessing throughout, and literally leaves you kept in the dark. Definitely worth a watch.

8.5/10

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