With a runtime of over two and a half hours, this taut investigative thriller may lose some of the less attentive audiences, but is so grim with frank realities, moralities and tension that it succeeds wonderfully.
When two families find their youngest daughters missing, a police detective runs an investigation into a possible kidnapping. But when the only suspect has the mind of a child and seems unlikely to have committed such a crime and the leads dry up, one of the fathers of the missing girls takes the law into his own hands.
Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal are both electric in this story. Jackman, as a stormy-eyed survivalist who will do anything to protect his family, and Gyllenhaal as a cool headed, restrained investigator who has yet to lose a case. Which is a blessing, considering the film in its entirety is solely focused on the characters and their seemingly hopeless search.
The story is told unconventionally. We are not given much time for the generic opening scenes of “Oh what a happy family they have, how wonderful everything is; wouldn’t it be sad if something went wrong” that plagues a lot of these films. No, Prisoners hits the audience immediately and has the girls missing within the first twenty minutes. What follows is a bleak, grim story as each member of the family deals with the loss, and our two leads struggle with literally no clues or evidence.
Now some people expecting car chases, murders, or out-of-control antagonists will find this direction-less second act a little… exhausting. Our antagonist is a very quiet, unassuming man, and as such the film’s focus is the slow and steady build up into its climax.
I wouldn’t dare spoil what happens in the film either since it really, really doesn’t give anything away. I’ve not seen a film keep cards so close to its chest in a while, so I can almost guarantee you won’t fully predict what will happen.
It is a slow, very quiet and calculating film which won’t grab absolutely everybody, but I can see myself watching this again for any clues I might have missed! If you like crime thrillers and puzzling dramas, I recommend it, it’ll leave you thinking about it for days.