Prisoners (2013)

5.0 Overall Score
Story: 3/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking, good cast

Good cast and looks can't carry the film's weak story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Prisoners

Studio:  Alcon Entertainment

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense/Drama

Release Date(s):  August 30, 2013 (Telluride Film Festival)/September 20, 2013 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R


I hear a guy named Walter White is cooking meth in here…

It is Thanksgiving and what starts out as a joyous holiday for Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), his wife Grace (Maria Bello), his friend Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard), and his wife Nancy (Viola Davis) turns into a horror when their youngest children disappear.  When a suspect named Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is brought in, Keller believes that he is responsible for his child’s kidnapping.  With Detective David Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) searching for clues into the disappearance, a discovery reveals that that the kidnapping might be part of a series of kidnappings stretching for decades.  Keller decides to kidnap Alex for the answers to the disappearance and he’s willing to do anything to find his daughter.


Do you like my T-1000 imitation?

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Prisoners is a mystery/suspense thriller.  The movie was fairly well received by critics and praised for the performances and imagery.  The movie did well at the box-office and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography.

Thrillers like Prisoners aren’t always my thing.  With so many crime dramas like Law and Order and CSI, a plot really has to go above and beyond to make an impact.  With some great visuals, I had high hopes for Prisoners…and was extremely let down.  *****Spoiler Alert***** Due to the style of this film, there will be spoilers throughout the review.


What an unusual well placed necklace on this corpse…I wonder if it could be a plotpoint

Prisoners’ story is awful.  The movie starts out with some great set-up, but as the movie progresses it quickly goes downhill.  The movie treats the viewers like idiots.  First through a random introduction of a minister (Len Cariou) who has a dead body in his basement, the idea of a serial kidnapper is introduced…and then completely ignored by the investigators for the course of the movie (nor is any real background check done into Alex Jones who is a victim himself). Suddenly at the end, the detective realizes it could be relevant, but still doesn’t really pay  out in the investigation.  There are tons of logic jumps that aren’t even examined by detectives or the characters…I still don’t know where Keller’s truck disappeared to when he set out to confront Leo at the end of the film.


Just hold the nail….I promise I won’t miss

The acting for the film is quite strong.  Hugh Jackman’s “tortured” style has been crafted through the years and it is in a good film for him to utilize it.  He does a nice job expressing the torture of a parent who has lost his child…the writing of the character unfortunately is somewhat spotty.  Gyllenhaal also is strong as the no nonsense cop who doesn’t have much of a nose for detecting due to the unfortunate script.  Terrance Howard, Viola Davis, and Mario Bello are a bit underused as the other parents…I wish they had been explored a bit more.  Dano is good as the mentally challenged victim of suspicion, but the movie miscasts Melissa Leo as the surprise villain.  It is the typical mistake of putting someone too famous in a role that is supposed to go unnoticed until the big reveal she’s the villain…I knew she had a bigger role to play simply because she was a bigger name.


I told them I was allergic to shellfish!

Prisoners looks great.  It has a real nice cinematic feel with some great looking uses of natural light and setting.  It is too bad that the movie’s plot is so poor because most of this great imagery feels like it is wasted on a film that is undeserving of the look…it deserves to be better.

Prisoners was a pretty big disappointment because it starts out with a lot of hope.  I am really surprised by the positive response to this movie which is all over the place, lacks direction, and runs too long.  Yes, film is a visual medium, but I do need some semblance of a story.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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