Movie Review: Prisoners

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Bottom Line: Showed lots of promise.  Too long.  Some ineffective storytelling.  Some stupid detective cliches.  Great acting.

It’s been a while since I’ve gone to see a movie that I was actually looking forward to seeing.  “Prisoners” was such a movie.  The concept is excellent.  Children disappear and signs point immediately to an individual.  When the individual proves to be too stupid to have committed the crime and there is no evidence to tie him to the crime, the police have to let him go.  He is soon thereafter kidnapped by the parents of the missing children and “enhanced interrogated”.

The movie starts really promising.  The introduction is crisp and clean.  You get an immediate feel for what kind of person Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is.  Hope for the best.  Prepare for the worst.  Do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.  All of this sets him up perfectly for the events that are about to occur.  More importantly, you believe him capable of the actions he performs to get his daughter back.

Fifteen to twenty minutes into the movie and the girls are already missing.  And the race begins.  Judging from the intro, I was expecting a taut, effective search for two missing girls filled with agonizing decisions and dead end leads and the all around effective storytelling that comprised the opening half hour of the movie.  What I got instead was a bunch of overly long, occasionally plodding scenes that bore no resemblance to the introduction.  At 153 minutes long, I was worried that we would be shown an hour long saccharine view of the family life of two girls before their disappearance even happened and the search for them would be shallow and perfunctory.  Now I wish that the movie was like that.  It is desperately in need of a good half hour more of scenes thrown to the cutting room floor.

A lot of the problems with the movie surround Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal).  It is quickly established that he is a great detective and that, in true movie cliche fashion, he has solved all of his cases.  Why then does he not make a painfully obvious deduction that links two of the characters together?  Why do they use another pathetic detective cliche of throwing things around in a fit of rage only to have a valuable clue stand out from the mess?  This is sloppy storytelling of the highest degree.

On the plus side, the acting is really top rate all around.  Hugh Jackman really brings to life a man who is all about control and completely loses it when that control is threatened.  Maria Bellow plays his wife as exactly the kind of wife you’d expect a control freak to marry.  Terrance Howard and Viola Davis play the parents of the other missing child and beautifully provide both the enabling of Hugh Jackman’s actions and the only voice of sanity.  Paul Dano and David Dastmalchian play incredibly effective creepy guys.  And Melissa Leo, oh I loves me some Melissa Leo.  No one plays earthy characters better than she does.  She is one of those people that makes me want to see a movie regardless of how good it is just because she’s in it.  If I had my way, she would be in every movie.