Review of Prisoners – How Far Would You Go?

[In an attempt to just give my opinion on the movie without spoiling it by forcing you dear reader to scroll through the review to see my verdict, I’m going to start placing the verdict at the top. If you are interested in reading my review of the nuances of the film hit the more button below.] – Editor

I saw Prisoners yesterday at the Webster theater. Prisoners tells the story of, two families whose daughters are simultaneously abducted while playing outside. Keller Dover (played by Hugh Jackman the father of one of the abducted girls) goes to extreme lengths to bring his daughters kidnapper to justice.

My verdict: check it out, positively worth the cost of admission.

*****THIS IS THE PART WHERE I SPOIL THE FILM*****

When Keller Dover’s daughter and her friend go missing, he takes matters into his own hands as the police pursue multiple leads and the pressure mounts. But just how far will this desperate father go to protect his family? – IMDB

I decided that I would include the IMDB summary here not because I believe it did a better job than my summary, (I actually wrote my summary after reading the IMDB one because I felt theirs gave a lot away, you’re welcome) but rather I felt their summary was cliche and I wanted to take some time out to discuss summaries. So often we see the phrase, “How far would you go?” or some iteration of it (ie, “… just how far will this desperate…”). The phrase “How far would you go?” played out and tired. I challenge summary writers everywhere to create a new turn of phrase, or at least stop using this one. Let’s face it, we see this phrase in EVERY genre and for every reason, “How far would you go to get the love of your life”, “How far would you go to meet the man of your dreams?”, “How far would he go to protect the one thing he loves?”, “How far will they go to bring down the house?”. It’s EVERYWHERE, and frankly, I’m done with it. I can’t think of a more cliche line at the moment that irritates me more. It’s like an extreme Klondike commercial every goddamn movie trailer.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest I can finally dig into the actual film. I must tell you I really enjoyed the film, it was arguably the best film I’ve seen all year (I’ve toned my movie watching down since last year where I saw ~ 75 in theaters). Would it have been the best movie I had seen all year if I had seen it last year? Probably not, but regardless it was quite good. The movie begins with a father and son in the woods doing some deer hunting. Honestly, I’m not terribly sure why they decided to include this scene, perhaps they wanted to set an ominous tone, perhaps they felt Hugh Jackman’s character needed to be “tougher”, perhaps they wanted to help reinforce the idea that the Dover family were “survivalists” (an idea not executed that well IMO). This first scene is the first glimpse we get of Hugh Jackman’s character, as the loving father showing his son the age-old tradition of shooting guns at animals.

The next 15-30 minutes are a cascade of fun family times, the Dover’s head to their friend the Birch’s house down the street. I must confess I was a bit surprised that this family was black. Not because I believe that somehow white people and black people shouldn’t be friends but rather in my initial perception of Keller Dover as a tough white hunter who lives in the back woods didn’t include him having close black friends or living in cookie cutter mind numbing suburbia. Perhaps this is my bias towards “the hunting community” but the first thing that usually comes to my mind when I think about this community is these guys:

Just a bunch of dudes making money on bird whistles drinking beers and growing beards. Nothing wrong with that either, but how many black people do you see on that show? (I’m guessing not many).

I feel I’m veering a bit off track here. So anyways we’re back in the Birch living room when the girls ask their parents if they can go back to the house to get a red whistle. Franklin Birch, played by Terrence Howard (an actor I quite enjoyed in Get Rich or Die Tryin’) is entertaining the family with the sounds of third grade level trumpet when he asks for requests. An amusing moment comes when after Keller requests Bruce Springsteen Franklin replies something to the affect of “…well firstly, I’m drunk, and secondly I’m black, so no Springsteen…”.

The next scenes involve the parents noticing that the children are missing and beginning the frantic search. It’s around this time when we are introduced to Jake Gyllenhaal’s character “Detective Loki”. I’ll say at this point the amount of tattoos that they decided to outfit Detective Loki was a bit confusing. Perhaps the directors wanted this character to be edgier, but I just don’t understand what they were trying to say by outfitting the detective with astrology symbols on his fingers and compass rose on his neck. With the type of tattoos Loki had the only thing I felt he was really missing was a tear drop tattoo on his face. Perhaps I’m a bit old school here but I was under the impression that most police departments don’t hire people with visible tattoos. Am I mistaken about this? Regardless, Detective Loki straddles the line between being your quintessential movie detective and a bit of a fresh breath in the genre. He’s cavalier, he’s disrespectful to his superiors (who are largely inept) and he tops it off by saying, “Let me do my job”. Classic movie cop line, you can almost feel Jake Gyllenhaal savoring the words as they come lethargically out of his mouth. The comparison with most other movie detectives largely stops here though, there really isn’t anything terribly remarkable about Detective Loki. In retrospect this is something that makes him special. He has no “sixth” sense like other movie cops do, and he isn’t crazy good at sniffing out clues, he’s a workhorse, he interviews people and he collects evidence and he speaks with the family. The director did a good job of making it so Keller and not detective Loki was the focal point of this film.

The police manage to locate the RV at a rest stop where we are first introduced to Paul Danos (of Little Miss Sunshine, Looper) Character Alex Jones. This is the part of the film where things actually start to get interesting. Loki questions Jones where we learn that Jones is mentally not all there and that, “He has the mind of ten year old”. The question is raised by Keller during the film, “How can he drive then?” to which Loki claims that “He has a valid Pennsylvania drivers license.” This is generally consistent with what I’ve found whilst driving through Pennsylvania (SICK BURN).

Perhaps the most inconsistent portion of the film is that Alex while having the ability to answer some questions like, “Show me your hands” or “You wouldn’t want your Aunt to go away would you” while unable to answer things like, “Where did you put girls” even under extreme duress.

Toward the end of the film the intricacy of the script can be seen and things start to tie together quite neatly. The film is a wild ride and every twist and turn left me guessing. Although initially I felt the movie was too long while I was there watching it, I really didn’t want it to end. When it finally does the audience is left with an uneasy sense of closure.

Tl;dr – Hugh Jackman, not a man to be trifled with.

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