Prisoners Movie ReviewWarner Bros.
R for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout.
Running time: 146 minutes.
Two stars out of four.

“Prisoners” has heavy-duty arthouse pretensions but, if we’re being honest with each other, it’s really just a high-falutin’ B-grade kidnap thriller.

It’s got lofty aspirations but it also wants to wallow in the muck — to thrill you and sicken you in equal measure while also being About Something. But if you strip away the pedigree of the people involved in front of and behind the camera, what’s left is a twisty kidnap picture filled with all the obligatory creepy suspects, red herrings and icky imagery.

Director Denis Villenueve also tries to add an air of importance by dragging out the developments in this police procedural for a good, solid half-hour longer than necessary. The French-Canadian filmmaker is one of the many Oscar nominees at work here — for 2011’s “Incendies,” about a Quebecois woman who travels to her mother’s Middle Eastern homeland after her death to uncover the mystery of her life. As in that foreign-language film, Villenueve creates a creeping sense of dread. You won’t know where “Prisoners” is going for the duration, but it could have been even more gripping if it had been tighter.

Instead, the characters in Aaron Guzikowski’s script have the same conversations with each other over and over, and usually with increasing volume. This is especially true of our star, Hugh Jackman, as the father who’s understandably desperate to find his little girl after she’s abducted on Thanksgiving. Jackman’s Keller Dover establishes himself early and often as a man of rigidity and principle, from the Christian pop he plays in his pickup truck to the impeccably and thoroughly stocked basement he maintains in his family’s rural Pennsylvania home. When the apocalypse comes, he will be ready on all fronts.

All that prudence goes out the window in a hurry when his 6-year-old daughter, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich), and her close friend, Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons), daughter of the Dovers’ neighbors Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis), disappear while the two families are wrapping up their holiday celebration. (Maria Bello co-stars as Keller’s wife, Grace, who essentially stays drugged up in bed all day after the kidnapping to block out the reality of the family’s horrible fate.)

All signs would point to a dilapidated RV seen earlier on the families’ quiet street, which may as well have the personalized license plate of PERVERT. Curious, the girls had been climbing on it. When police track it down later that night and find that the driver is a dim-witted man-child, they’re certain they have their man. Paul Dano finds yet another eerie loner-weirdo in his repertoire as the suspect, Alex Jones, which is evident the second we see his stringy hair, nerdy wardrobe and oversized eyeglasses.

But Jake Gyllenhaal, as a lead investigator known only as Detective Loki, is an eerie loner-weirdo of a different kind. While Jackman overacts in big, showy ways, bringing menacing elements of both Wolverine AND Jean Valjean to the role, Gyllenhaal overacts in the opposite direction. He’s trying awfully hard to be quiet and quirky, his performance consisting of nervous blinks, neck tats and the slicked-back hair and buttoned-up shirt of a gang member. (Or perhaps a reformed one; Loki makes a passing allusion to having spent time in a Christian boys’ camp.)

When Loki finds he must let Alex go because there’s nothing to charge him with, Keller goes ballistic and takes the law into his own hands. He becomes a kidnapper himself, squirreling Alex away in his late father’s abandoned apartment and beating the crap out of him for information. Basically, he does everything shy of waterboarding the guy, which, as we know from the movies — depending on your perception of “Zero Dark Thirty” — may or may not actually work.

Eventually, he goes so far as to build a makeshift holding cell inside the apartment’s shower — Keller is a contractor, you see — hoping that a combination of claustrophobia and scalding-hot water will persuade him to talk. But he also hates himself for such cruelty. The Birches know what Keller is doing but feel conflicted about whether to help him or report him (Howard and Davis are criminally underused in hang-wringing roles).

Meanwhile, the usually efficient Loki feels frustrated by his inability to solve this particular case. Grace lays in bed all day, sleeping and crying. Melissa Leo, unsettling as Alex’s protective aunt, is stuck in a time warp of loneliness since her husband’s death. And somewhere out there are a couple of scared little girls being held against their will.

You see? Everyone’s trapped. We’re all PRISONERS. It’s very profound.

But the visuals from the great cinematographer Roger Deakins, a 10-time Oscar nominee himself (who should have won this year, finally, for “Skyfall”), maintain a beautifully bleak sense of foreboding throughout. A couple of moments are especially striking: a slab of light across Alex’s eyes from inside the darkness of his cell, and the mess of blood and raindrops obscuring Loki’s vision as he makes a climactic dash to the hospital.

Deakins manages to break free of the film’s self-serious sense of restraint in ways that are superior to the film itself.

69 Comments on “Prisoners

  1.  by  Russell Dee

    What a joke! This is the best movie of the year so far. And you’re one of the few people in the world who doesn’t like it. This movie reminds me of another great movie, “No country for old men” because of its’ emphasis on artistic details like imagery and character development. This movie, like “No country for old men” is really about something much bigger than the actual front-and-center story-line, and if you had a lick of sense you’d realize that. The front-and-center kidnap story is really just the vehicle the director uses to take the viewer on a fascinating emotional roller-coaster ride, which he does masterfully. Yes, the actual front-and-center kidnap story is pretty common but this movie feels anything but common due to its’ artistic perfection. “Prisoners’ is an amazing spectacle and I can’t imagine another movie that’s coming out this year having any chance of wrestling the Oscar from this movie.

    •  by  garlynne

      You are an unsophisticated ignoramus to think this movie is good. This utterly repugnant cinematic diarrhea hasn’t any redeeming qualities. It’s ugly, incoherent, slow and dreary. There are way to many plot twists, red-herring and implausible scenes.

      •  by  Russell Dee

        garlynne, I think the movie went over your head and it is NOT incoherent. When I saw it the first time I thought that a few parts seemed disjointed and a waste of time but I just saw it a 2nd time and now that I have it’s clear that all of the parts that I thought were unrelated are actually all related. The corpse in the priest’s house is the runaway husband of the female killer and the one disturbed guy who shot himself at the police station and had all the snakes in suitcases at this house is one of the person’s that was kidnapped by the female killer and her husband (who ended up a corpse in the priest’s basement).

        •  by  AaronA

          Having interconnected plot threads does not mean that they intersect in interesting ways. The minute Jake Gyllenhaal found the body I knew that it was going to be Paul Dano’s Father and was actively hoping for it not to be the case. The director and the actors are really trying to transcend the B grade Thriller script they were given. If they had let the director rewrite the script as he would have been able to improve on the existing material like he did with Incendies.

    •  by  peter solari

      I saw PRISONERS for free last night. My friend loved it. I thought that the very graphic brutality was way over the top and overdone. I won’t recommend PRISONERS to any body unless he loves graphic violence in film. The producers, writer, director know that the young audience grew up on graphic cruelty in movies so give that audience what they apparently want–more and more graphic horror. PRISONERS is as bad as 12 YEARS A SLAVE, but in a different way!

  2.  by  JozieLee

    Tho it may be a completely different story, the trailer reminds me of the recent Ohio Kidnap victims – Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry. That horror is too fresh in my mind. Can’t separate fiction from reality. Doubt if I’ll have the stomach to see PRISONERS.

    •  by  Russell Dee

      It’s a great movie Jozie. I wouldn’t lie. You will be entertained by this movie in the sense that you are going to pay attention and you will not be bored. I am not saying that it’s always pleasant but I am saying that it grabs your attention and keeps it. You are not going to doze off. This movie is very stimulating. I love the end.

    •  by  Jake West

      For goodness sakes don’t. I’m a guy that likes horror classics but I wanted to cry for the mentally handicapped guy in glasses. The movie has no heroes to root for really except the victims.

  3.  by  Farty

    Your review sucks. This is one of the best films of the year.

    •  by  Russell Dee

      You are right. This is a GREAT movie and 90% of the people who have seen this movie agree with you and I. The people who don’t agree with you are the people who lack imagination and talent themselves because a person has to have some talent and imagination to recognize it in others. It’s amazing that I was able to sit and watch a movie for 2 1/2 hours without getting distracted or bored even once especially considering that there is not a shred of special effects in this movie to dazzle me.

      Are there some flaws in the front-and-center kidnapping storyline? Sure. A few. But the movie is so good at everything else going on inside of it that it doesn’t matter.

    •  by  Jake West

      Coming from Farty that sounds hilarious.

  4.  by  Mike

    One of the best movies of the year? Oh, nonsense. One of the worst bits of over-wrought garbage I’ve seen in several years. Hugh Jackman doesn’t act. He furrows.

    Christie, I don’t mean to argue, but the Keller Dover character does not “begin to hate himself” for his monstrous, inexcusable (except we’re supposed to excuse, since we live in times of Colin-Powell expedience when we’re all so helplessly and stupidly afraid of each other we need “good” torturers to “save” us from all the bad torturers) actions. Nor does he begin to drink heavily again. All of that is faking, to hide his vigilante activities from incompetent law enforcement.

    This is bad, heavy-as-a-ton-handed writing, using pop paranoia to distract audiences from all the plot-holes big enough to crack an axle on.

    Worst movie this year, more accurately. And this year has had OZ and MAN OF STEEL in it.

    •  by  Russell Dee

      What a joke! Worst movie of the year – what a laugh! In case you hadn’t noticed, Rotten Tomatoes is currently reporting that among the viewers who have seen this movie 90% agree with me and disagree with you. How does it feel to be in the bottom 10% of the class. It’s a good sign that someone lacks talent himself if he can’t discern great art when it stares him in the face. This is a great movie. The last time I sat for 2 1/2 hours at a movie theater without losing interest even once is when The Avengers came to the screen. Prisoners is that gripping and it doesn’t have any special effects or CGI. Great movie!!!

      •  by  Eric Celeste

        I enjoy being in the 10 percent, unless I’m at a witch-burning. Then I’m all KILL THE WITCH!

    •  by  garlynne

      I agree with you. This movie is propaganda driven vitriol that tries to situate villainy in religion, handicapped people, the elderly and a priest.

      It’s sick.

    •  by  peter solari

      Mike, you are right on correct! I saw it last night and agree with you.

  5.  by  Christy Lemire

    Mike, good catch on the drinking, thanks for that. But I do think he hates himself eventually — he says something along the lines of “Why are you making me do this to you?” Or rather, he screams it. He prays toward the end the way he did at the beginning and finds he can’t get through it.

    •  by  Russell Dee

      I also realized that the drinking was just to supply him cover for what he was doing in the building.

  6.  by  Nicholas


    As a huge fan of your reviews I do agree with most of your points. Especially with the amazing Cinematography. I felt like they teased us with some great set ups to flesh out these characters more (Lokis Blinking and Twitching. Jackmans Basement of goodies etc) But they just kind of didn’t go anywhere with them. Why do this to not only add mystery but to ultimately piss off a viewer as well looking for more with the majority of the characters in this film?

    Keep up the great work on WhatTheFlick


    •  by  Russell Dee

      In my above post I mean to say that they gave Loki a tick and some weird tattoos to emphasize the point that Lokie had a personality/life prior to this movie and and they filled Jackman’s garage with survivalist paraphernalia for the same reason PLUS to let us know that Jackman’s character is something of a rigid person. For example, given Jackman’s religiosity, singing the national anthem in the shower, and survivalist paraphernalia don’t you conclude that he’s a republican and kind of extreme? And then that makes you wonder how he has an African American family for best friends and why Bruce Springsteen is one of his favorite singers like republican Chis Christie. There are Interesting paradoxes going on in this splendid movie.

      •  by  JozieLee

        Russell, you have me positvely curious about the Jackman character. A Republican? Wouldn’t any parent, regardless of their political affiliation, go psycho when their kid is missing? So I wonder why that comes to mind for u. You’ve got me so curious I’ll prob see it this weekend. If I hate it you’ll hear from me. If I like it imma’ have to thank you for speaking up for your fav flick.

        Totally enjoying ur posts. Keep ’em comin’

        •  by  Russell Dee

          I admit that the front-and-center storyline has some flaws but they don’t matter. You notice the flaws and then swoosh them away because the movie is so well done otherwise and the flaws aren’t so big as to destoy the movie. They wrap it up too quickly, and kind of messily,and there are a few other things that bugged me a little bit, but the movie is still thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining. I really liked the performance by the suspect (Dano).

          I went to see Riddick (another new movie) the other day and I had to wait about 30 minutes for it to start so I sat in on the Prisoners showing for those 30 minutes and I really did not want to leave even. If I had already seen Riddick I would have stayed to see Prisoners again instead. I’m going to pay to see Prisoners again this Tuesday when I just have to pay $5.

          Prisoners is a fine movie and I predict it will get some Oscars.

          I really like the scene where the suspect (Dano) is driving his motorhome and he runs it into a tree and then they show him starting straight-ahead at the cops/camera and he looks so eerie and creepie bathed in moonlight and rain and the expression on his face.

        •  by  Russell Dee

          When I see a movie I guess I try to identify and empathize with the characters. Jackman turns into a vigilante and as part of identifying/empathizing with him (and his actions) I was noticing the differences between he and I along with the similarities between he and I. Jackman’s character is rigid, he’s heavy into hunting, possesses intense religiosity, sings the national anthem in the shower, talks kind of tea-party, and exhibits survivalist behavior. These things are kind of right-wing extreme and I’m a democrat. On the other hand there are scenes when he comes off as caring and sensitive. And his cause is understandable because he heard the suspect say something (in the parking lot after the suspect was released by the cops for lack of evidence) that nobody else heard the suspect say, the suspect really did say it, and what he said seems to indicate that the suspect was involved with the kidnapping. So Jackman had this piece of evidence that nobody else had – a statement by the suspect.

          Like I said, I was trying to identify/empathize with the character (Jackman’s) and the movie gave me plenty of reasons to write him off as a dangerous vgilante thug, but then there’s his intermittent sensitivity/caring, love for Bruce Springsteen, the rightness of his cause, the fact that he had a piece of evidence that nobody else had – that statement made by the suspect which the suspect really did say. It was not a misunderstanding.

          I found myself being annoyed with Jackman but also pulling for him. And in the end I would make the case that he was not only right, but also that if he had not done the things he did then one of the girls – his girl – would have died. The way the timing of things played out Jackman’s daughter lived because of the things Jackman did.

        •  by  Russell Dee

          Oh yea and another thing about the character Jackman portrayed is that his closest friends are African American and this is one of the things that goes against the grain of some of his rigid and extreme ideas. He’s a complicated character. And by way of those complications it’s possible to identify with him (somewhat) and empathize with him, especially since he had that one piece of evidence that i talked about where the released suspect said something incriminating to him. He still felt kind of dirty to me because he takes things pretty far but his complicated character gives you room to feel for him no matter which side of the political aisle you reside in. He was just trying to save his daughter (and he probably did) something of a schmuck though he may be.

      •  by  David

        Don’t you think it is a bit racist to suggest it is “strange” for a white man that is Christian, patriotic, and survivalist to be friends with a black family? (Not all black people are American!) It seems you are buying into a stereotype that white men are racist.

        •  by  Russell Dee

          No I don’t think it’s racist for me to suggest that Jackman’s Character, who is something of a tea-party, republican, survivalist, whacko, is perplexing because he’s also best friends with an African American family, among some other issues. Everyone knows that the tea-party is accused of racism towards African Americans so it seems interesting/perplexing to me that Jackman’s tea-party charactermwould be best friends with an African American family.

          This having been said I won’t respond to any other issues regarding racial politics. I know I first raised the issue but I was just making comments about the perplexing nature of one of the characters in the movie. I don’t want to get into a back-and-forth about politics and race here because this is a movie site so let’s be mindful and respectful of that.

          BTW, I still think Jackman, Loki, the black wife, and the suspect all deserve Oscar noms and some of those people should get Oscars, but I just saw “Gravity” and I think that Sandra Bullock is going to be very hard to beat for best female actress. She is really something special and Gravity is a heck of a movie. Wow!! You should all see “Gravity” because it’s really good. There are some parts that are a little over the top and hard to swallow, but it won’t prevent you from thoroughly enjoying the movie. As much as I like Prisoners I have to say that I like “Gravity” better.

          Chris what do you think of Gravity? I saw it on a new giant screen Cinetopia in the Pacific Northwest and it was really something special. This thing is a serious contender or the Oscar too.

  7.  by  Christy Lemire

    Thank you for the kind words, Nick! As the mother of a Nicolas myself, I assume you must be a gentleman of taste and distinction (with frequent bursts of good-natured insanity). What WAS up with the blinking and twitching, anyway?

    •  by  Justin

      I think the whole thing about the twitching, Christy, was that Loki (what’s up with that name?) does that whenever he’s anxious or excited. And that for me made him a more interesting character: Why does he twitch like that? What do the tattoos? I think we were made to think about him somewhat. Which is fine for me, but not everyone else.

      I do think the film is a lot better than you give credit for. I’ll be damned if I don’t hear of any Oscar nominations for either Jackman or Gyllenhaal. And you were spot-on about the cinematographer’s work. I agree the plot can be weak and heavy-handed in some areas. And there are some elements that don’t get fleshed out very well (i.e., the religion aspects). And Dover’s transformation happens a little too quickly, in my opinion.

      Regardless, I think I understand how you’ve come to your conclusions and I respect you for it. You certainly gave a better negative review than the last guy I read.

      •  by  Christy Lemire

        Thank you for your thoughtful response, Justin!

  8.  by  Douglas Roy

    Although I know your take about this taunt and engrossing film (in my opinion) I still would’ve liked to have seen and heard both your comments and that of your WHAT THE FLICK? compatriots, Ben and Alonso et al. Any possibility that you’ll do a video review of this film as well?

  9.  by  Gary

    Saw the film yesterday, and believe you me, Christy is spot on! The film ebbs and flows,but still worth your time.

  10.  by  Christy Lemire

    Hey Douglas, thanks for asking. We’ll review “Prisoners,” as well as “Rush” and “Enough Said,” this week. We couldn’t tape any new reviews last week because they were busy moving the Young Turks studio. So we’ll play some catch-up along with the new stuff.

  11.  by  Andrew Drewes

    Christy, you make excellent points as always. And you are right, “Prisoners” is basically a standard kidnapping picture with Big Meaning grafted between each ridiculous plot point. That explains why it is, indeed, overlong. I’m sure you’ll agree that underneath all of the cheap thrills and grafted on symbolism, it’s rather despicable. The film tries to rile us up when the mystery is rather obvious from the get go. It wants to awaken our own prejudices and make us feel anger towards Paul Dano, specifically, and I for one could not go along with it. Watching two bigots trek deep into the rabbit hole proved for a very exhausting two and a half hours. There just isn’t much motivation behind all this technical mastery.

    On the plus side, this movie is further proof that Maria Bello can do a lot with very little.

    Thanks again for your unfiltered take!


    •  by  Russell Dee

      The front-and-center storyline about the 2 girls being kidnapped is a typical kidnap story. It’s been done a zillion times, but this movie is different from ALL of the other kidnap movies because the director made his kidnap movie so brilliantly artistic, the scriptwriter for this movie gave it nifty diaglogue, the two leading actors and the black wife all gave Oscar-worthy performance, and the cinematography is great too. This movie has nifty twists and turns and I liked the end where you are left hanging whether or not Jackman was rescued or not. With all the great artistic technique applied by all of the people involved this movie stands out from all of the other kidnap movies out there and the end result is anything but typical or common.

  12.  by  David

    Review is spot on. Prisoners is a 2 1/2 hour movie that would have been pretty good if it was an 1 hour 55 minutes. Script is not smart or thought provoking just repetitive & quite boring. The second suspect in the movie turns out to be present only to mislead you of the actual “twist”. In hindsight this character makes very little sense despite a weak attempt to make some sense of his actions. The only positive part of the second suspect is it gives you hope of something actually developing in the storyline.

  13.  by  Russell Dee

    Oh yea and the guy who played the mentally challenged young suspect was also great. he was indispensable. He was perfect. There were 4 acting performances that were Oscar-worthy (Jackaman, Lokie, the black wife, and the young suspect) in this one movie and yet some people want to complain about the movie. What a laugh!

  14.  by  Christy Lemire

    Russell, it appears that you have some interest in this film.

    •  by  Russell Dee

      Christie I don’t have any interest in the movie other than that I like it. None. I think this movie is very VERY good. Yes I think it has flaws but I also thought “No Country For Old Men” has flaws but I still like it. You might ask what the flaws were in “NO Country…” and I would say that the end when Josh Brolin got killed that confrontation wasn’t shown, I didn’t like it when Brolin threw up (I always hate that and I wish directors would stop showing that) , Brolin’s wife was at times wise and at other times as unwise as a newborn baby, since Brolin’s wife knew Chagur would be looking for her why did she go to a house where he could easily find her, and why didn’t she try to run, and then what happened to the money? There were a few other things about the movie that bothered me but there were many good things about it. Ultimately, I go to movies to be entertained and if a movie can keep me entertained then that’s a good thing. Prisoners kept me entertained, and fully engrossed, for 2 1/2 hours despite there being no special effects of any kind. That says a lot. The movie is entertaining. I’m confident that very few of (the few) people who are ragging on it fell asleep during Prisoners.

  15.  by  John K

    Good review. I thought the movie was good in some respects but uneven. A decent mystery story which does lead somewhere and with clues which do make sense in light of later events. But the acting alternates between semi-catatonic and hysterical and you never know when the next Jackman explosion will come, which I suppose is a sort of suspense. But the director would do better with a shortened running time.

  16.  by  Ron

    I saw the movie opening night 10:50 PM. And I still had to drive 45 mins to get home. Long movie. But, I really enjoyed it. You know foriegn directors carrry a bit of the foriegn film feel with them into crossover movies like this. Many years ago I used to work second shift and watched all night movies back in the 70’s and 80’s. I got to see a lot of foriegn films. They always end with something left. FINI.

    I was not blown away by Jackman even though I have just begun to like his work. I thought he was really good in Les Mes. Prior to the kidnapping I thought he was a bit too edgy for Thanksgiving Day. I did feel like the two families did not quite fit as friends. Not for Thanksgiving Day. Maybe we needed some other family member connection to make that work. Couple of Grandfathers that knew each other in the war or something. And I think the lack of connection in the two families kind of stayed wrong. Other than that I really enjoyed the movie. I recognize Dano and Gyllenhaal have played these parts before. But, Gyllenhaal
    was really good. He was the movie for me. His questioning of Dano, his reaction to Jackman going off on him were just plan perfect acting I thought. And, I think I enjoyed it better watching it with him as the lead instead of Jackman.

  17.  by  Danusha Goska

    Thank you for exposing this piece of crap film.

    Yes, yes, yes.

    It is trying so hard to be about something, when it fact it is idiotic and implausible.

    It pretends to be about something in order to sell tickets. It keeps the viewer watching with sadism and gore.

    •  by  Russell Dee

      so you kept watching, right?

      Isn’t that the point to a movie – to captivate the audience? And didn’t the movie do that to you?

  18.  by  Robert

    RobertVaughn 3 minutes ago
    The film is decent as entertainment goes on both a technical and storyline level. It’s dark, mostly depressing but with a certain element that makes it worthwhile in the end for the questions it asks and the dilemmas it explores. It’s not Saw or torture porn anyway. There is an exploration of faith and loss of faith as well as the frailty and limitations of the human psyche. Human complexity and the varying coping mechanisms we cling to when confronted with nightmare circumstances. As a mystery film it works to a degree. There was something about the film that made me think Kafka (The Trial, consider the whistle in the final scene) and Eichman in Jerusalem. The bewildering indifferent universe with only glimmers of some kind of revelation and the banality of good and evil and what that means.

    And yes Jozie Jackman’s character would almost certainly be characterized as Republican or possibly socially conservative blue collar Democrat (famously derided by the president as a “clinger to guns and religion”).

  19.  by  john hofbauer

    Ugh, what a bad film after the first 30 minutes. This review is spot on. The film is full of ridiculous plot holes, lack of logic, and basically, to put it simply, stupid stuff. It’s also disgusting and culturally unnecessary. .

    •  by  Russell Dee

      Now that I’ve seen it a 2nd time I’m convinced that there might not be any plot holes and if there are it’s just one or two. The movie’s a little complicated but it all does tie together.

    •  by  Jake West

      I agree. It was more twisted then anything. I’m glad I know my real life limits. I would try to find someone more involved in the crime then that poor, poor creature. If the near autistic is all you can find then play to their emotions, drug them if you have to, hell he could had followed the guy and found his kids eventually Thumbs down of a movie. Belongs in the porno gore for sickos section.

  20.  by  Jackie

    OMG … I sooo agree with this film review! I KNEW I should never go to a movie over 2 1/2 hours long, unless it was made by David Lean (who is, alas, dead). Halfway through this overwrought piece of pretentiousness, I found myself yearning for a director of the caliber of Hitchcock (also, alas, dead), who could have told this story in an hour and half, with far less overt violence and chocolate syrup (what’s with all the brown blood?) and general YUK …. AND horrified us far more effectively. After an hour and a half, I also couldn’t stand for another minute watching Jake Gyanhaall twitch his eyes (to make sure we knew that his character was supposed to be “edgy”), so finally, I stopped looking at his face altogether. The only thing about this movie that was any good, really, was seeing the wonderful character actor Lou Cariou (as the priest) come out of retirement. Why this movie had to be so stupendously BAD is beyond me, when there was plenty of talent (though talent seemed eschewed in favor of scenery-chewing behavior, with the exception of Melissa Leo).

    •  by  Ron

      Jackie…90 percent of the viewers of this filmed loved it, including myself. You and your 10 percent are appalled at the realism of the film which is what real life is all about. Sometimes violence is put into a film just for the sake of it…but this film portrayed the violence as needed for story developement. And Jake’s performance (twitching and all) was magnifcent.
      Now go back to watching your Lifetime channel.

  21.  by  Russell Dee

    I just saw Prisoners again and now that I’ve seen it for the 2nd time I can say that it’s even better than I thought it was after seeing it the first time. The first time I saw it, it seemed like there were a couple parts that were disjointed because in the early part of the movie there’s the part where there is a drunk priest who has a corpse in his house and that whole storyline seemed unrelated to everything else just like the storyline where the cops brought in the disturbed guy who played with mannequins, bought little girl’s clothes, and had snakes in suitcases in his house. That is the guy who killed himself (shot a gun into his mouth) at the police station.

    Firstly, the corpse at the drunk priest’s house is the runaway husband of the female killer who is Alex’s (Dano’s) so called aunt.

    Secondly, the guy who killed himself at the police station (the guy with the snakes, manequins, and little girl’s clothes) is one of the kids that the female killer (Alex’s aunt) kidnapped years earlier when he was a child. He was doing all that weird stuff (mannequins, kids clothes, snakes, mazes) because that is what he learnt from the bad guy who ran away from Alex’s aunt and ended up a corpse at the priest’s house.

    Thirdly, when Alex pulled his motorhome into the tree and he looked so creepy outside of the motorhome it wasn’t moonlight on his face. It was rain, and the light from the cop’s flashlights. Man, that’s a very effective scene because it’s intended to creep out the viewer and it sure does.

    Nifty movie.

    To the movie’s detractors I woudl say that roughly 90% of the general public likes this movie, roughly 80 percent of the critics like this movie, and 2/3 of the top critics like this movie. This is a very good movie and it will win Oscars.

  22.  by  chino

    Just saw this movie tonight and I agree 100% with the reviewer! I always look at at the reviews on rotten tomatoes to ensure I’m not wasting my time watching bad movies. After seeing all the positive reviews, I thought I would like this movie. Wrong! Overly complicated plot, red herrings galore, tidy ending, Gyllenhaal’s constant eye twitching, this movie was an overly pretentious pile of manure. What was the aunt’s motivation for what she did? How did Hugh’s character know to go back to her? What a coincidence that Loki found the body in the basement that ties everything together! The many plotholes and contrived coincidences totally ruined this movie.

    •  by  Sam

      All of the questions you asked are answered.

      What was the aunt’s motivation for what she did? She was super religious and used to ride around the country in that RV with her husband and child spreading the “word of god”. When her son died from cancer, she stopped believing. She said she felt she needed to take children away from families to show them God doesn’t exist and to ruin their lives in the same was hers was ruined. She explained this when Jackman came to her home at the end.

      How did Hugh’s character know to go back to her? In the hospital, Jackman’s daughter’s friend told Jackman, “You were there so they put duct tape on our mouths”. If you recall Jackman had previously visited the aunt that morning and the Aunt therefore covered the girls mouths and hid them. Jackman clearly realized it was the Aunt at that moment in the hospital.

      What a coincidence that Loki found the body in the basement that ties everything together? This was not a coincidence. In a kidnapping case with no suspects, police officers visit convicted child predators in the surrounding area. Jake Gyllenhall explained that’s why he was knocking on doors before visiting the priests home. Therefore, either the priest was on that list or Gylenhall had a previous connection to the priest from his past mysterious life. Also, it was said that Loki had never left a case unsolved….clearly good at his job! Of course he would find evidence that the average detective would struggle to discover.

      You said, “The many plotholes and contrived coincidences totally ruined this movie” I think you just did not pay attention.

    •  by  Ron

      You are in a huge minority…this film was one of the best of the decade. Just because you are not smart enough to follow the plot does not mean a movie is not any good.

  23.  by  Jake West

    Because I didn’t know much about the movie I feel as though I got duped into watching a form of torture porn. How far would you go to save your child? Ummm not as far as the picture showed and I would chose some other person involved or you could try drugs first before torture. I got sick and found their were little heroes in this sick picture. I can’t comment more as it will give away to many details. I’m not a liberal Marxist but I would never harm the person-character like that. Once you chose 3rd world tactics, you are no longer human yourself. Is humanity to become a monster in order to save mankind? I hope not. My main beef is the person the “hero” chose to “question” Yes you can still drive a vehicle and be considered mentally handicapped.

    •  by  Russell Dee

      Jake, you have a point but in this movie I think that if Jackman’s character had not done the things he did his daughter would have died. The things he did resulted in things happening that got Loki to go to Alex’s aunt’s house and stop her from killing Jackman’s daughter. I decided that Loki rescued Jackman’s character and I’m sure that Jackman’s character’s attorney will point out to the judge that the things Jackman did led to Jackman’s daughter being saved and the killer being stopped and Jackman’s character will end up with only a slap in the wrist.

    •  by  Ron

      Hard to say what you would really do because it did not happen to you. It is also easy to say the that torture is an extreme when a child of yours has never been kidnapped or murdered. Torture SHOULD be done to any person harming a child in any way. In this country the criminal have all the rights and the victims have none…I know from experience.

  24.  by  Joel Bentry

    This was not the worst movie of the year, but it certainly is overrated. On plot, the spooky femaile villian sitting in the background over the obvious suspect with the RV is a bit to simplistic. Having someone being so bull headed as torturing a disabled person is way over the believable line. A real Jackman’s character would not be so dumb as to skip right to the beating, he would have considered phrases uttered by the cognitively disabled Alex, and would have considered the option that Alex was repeating what he heard, not what he did— especially after his torture didn’t yield anything more. The semi-comatose Maria Bello character was a bit much — real mothers are stronger than that. Etc, etc. I’ll give the actors some points for selling it, but, as others have noted, the characters were a bit to simple for my tastes. And the ending, when Hugh J. faces off and the villain holds a gun on him … to think that such a survivalist and physical person wouldn’t have made a move right then — do you think someone like that would the sedative? Oh come, on. As soon as Hugh knew the identity for sure of the horrible insane and multiple-count killer his survival instincts would tell him his best chance was at the beginning … throw a tool, stumble and clip the gun from the hand that held it, throw the bottle of sedative at the gun, etc… … he would have gone down with a fight. he wasn’t going to find out where his daughter was from this psycho, and his defensive position would only get worse … which it did.

    So this movie could have been better overall. I was getting tired watching it in the theatre, but it did hold my interest…. so I’d give it two stars out of four as well.

  25.  by  Mo

    Thanks for writing a sane review. This movie was pure shite in my opinion, truly awful, and I agree with the person above who felt it to be the worst movie this year.

    It may be among the worst movies I have ever seen.

    All the slobbering over it by the “90 %” is proof to me that we now live in the times depicted in a much better film than this: IDIOCRACY.
    That anyone would consider this film Oscar worthy is stunning, and not in a good way.

    •  by  Ron

      Have fun at the new Transformers movie that is coming out next year…that is more your speed.

      •  by  Dawn

        Ron is it always your default position to attack someone’s intellect if they do not agree with your opinion?
        The priest’s involvement doesn’t make much sense. Let’s assume that he is in fact a defrocked priest who has a history of predation on children. I can go with that, I can accept that Loki would do what any cop would do, and go straight to the known offenders within a certain area. What doesn’t make sense is how the script attempts to force a connection to the priest that doesn’t seem to have a basis in logic.
        How did the priest and the dead man come in contact with each other? Was there some sort of Deviant’s Club where there are monthly meetings? The priest said he came to him for confession. He doesn’t know the dead man’s name. How does the dead man know that the Father is a priest? The aunt told a back story of the family driving around in the camper van handing out flyers for Jesus. This would be amazingly uncharacteristic for a Catholic family.
        Why would priest kill and hide the dead man after his confession? The sanctity of Confession is an immovable foundation of the faith and the vows of a priest.
        So, if we accept that somehow these two characters met each other and the dead man was overwrought with grief for his past AND confessed this to the priest, and the priest killed him out of revenge or out of some frustrated desire to keep him from harming more children. Why did his vow to keep the secrets of this man who confessed to him keep him from going to the police all those years ago when he confessed but not after he was found in possession of the corpse?

        The second guy, Mr. Parkour who sneaks into the houses of both sets of parents, he was taking items of the girl’s clothing. He clearly didn’t live with the aunt, he was supposed to be another victim of the kidnappers. He knows who the kidnappers are, he knows who the victims are, he was play acting being the kidnapper. Why was this “other victim” allowed to escape? Why was he living independently from the aunt? What did I miss here? Was crazy, mazey, snake guy just some sort of ninja detective that had inside information about the couple who kidnapped 16 kids but never revealed it to anyone? Too many illogical leaps of faith to allow me to suspend my disbelief that much.

        •  by  Russell Dee

          Dawn the priest storyline was relevant because the guy found dead in the basement at the Priest’s home was the former husband of the female killer – Alex’s supposed aunt. Her man ran away and went to the priest’s house and partially confessed to the priest. This became apparent at the end of the movie when Detective Loki got to the female Alex’s aunt’s home and saw the picture of her ex-husband on the counter-top and her ex-husband in that picture was wearing the same maze necklace that the corpse in the priest’s basement was wearing. Detective Loki shrugged knowingly when he saw the picture on the counter-top because he realized at that moment that Alex’s Aunt’s ex-husband was the corpse in the priest’s basement.

          It all tied together.

          My final thoughts are that prisoner was the best movie of the year. I liked Gravity but after more thought I decided that I liked the visuals in gravity rather than the storyline, character-development, or dialogue. The general story of Gravity was solid but parts of the storyline were ridiculous. For example when she was using a fire extinguisher to putt around in space and when she aimed her Russian space pod so well that she nearly landed on the Chinese satellite only to arrive at the exact moment the Chinese satellite was about to crash to earth. Ridiculous!!!!

          At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, I that a lesser movie will likely win Best movie for politically correct reasons. I think a race-based movie will win Best movie even though it isn’t as good as Prisoners, Captain Phillips, or American Hustle.

    •  by  Russell Dee

      LOL! So let me get this straight – you’re in the bottom 10% of the class and you’re badmouthing the students in the upper 10-percent of the class. Alright! Whatever you say. I mean if it makes you feel better to cut down the top 90% of the class while you are sitting in the bottom 10% of the class, that’s fine with me.

  26.  by  Beks

    Agree with this review completely. I thought it was about half a decent movie, but by the time it was all wrapping together in a neat little bow I was rolling my eyes very hard. The worst part was hearing the killer explain their motives like a Bond movie villain.

    Melissa Leo and Viola Davis in particular were wasted in this film.

    Lastly, I’m disgusted by commenters who seem to think that it was okay for Hugh Jackman’s character to torture an intellectually disabled man. I really hope we weren’t supposed to think that – if so then the movie is even worse than I thought.

    •  by  Russell Dee


      Love of one’s child is very powerful.

      If a father is on trial for injuring a certainly-guilty person who kidnapped the father’s daughter I would want to find the father not-guilty if the defense attorney proved that the injured person really was involved in the kidnapping and the father’s actions is what saved his child from certain death, especially if the father had evidence no one else had, as was true in this movie.

      The fact that the suspect was intellectually disabled was relevant to me but there were things that were perhaps more relevant to me.

      Tell me, was the total innocence and helplessness of the two little girls relevant to you at all? The disabled person had information that he wasn’t sharing. If it were real life would it be best for the two innocent helpless little girls to die? Is that the preferable outcome in these kinds of situations? As I’ve said before, if Jackman’s character doesn’t do the things he did then his innocent little girl would have died. So if you are saying that Jackman shouldn’t have done the things he did then you are saying that at least one of those innocent helpless little girls should have died. I’m sorry but I disagree with you.

      •  by  Kathy

        #Russell, so totally agree with everything you’ve said here. And hopefully no one else will read this, bc I’m not going to go back and forth…but I wanted to beat the character “Alex” myself. I realize he had something wrong with him (not mentally challenged, it was from a lifetime of being subjected to the torture and murder of kids). However, a parent who loves their children with the amount of love I feel would lose their mind if this happened. You would do anything, ANYTHING, to save them. Jackman’s character was told “they didn’t cry until I left them” from that weirdo. He knew something. He wasn’t mentally retarded, mentally challenged, no Down’s Syndrome etc…He was a victim yes. I wonder, though, how many serials killers had quite disturbing abusive childhoods? Should we give them a free pass too? Anyway, it was a great movie. Ppl try to psychoanalyze everything and tear it to shreds. I guess it makes them feel superior. I just watch movies to be entertained 🙂

  27.  by  mike

    just watched prisoners. it sucked. most stuff wouldn’t have happened in real life. had to suspend reality more than once. the ending really sucked. how long after the cop rushed the girl to the hospital were they searching the frozen ground? was the father blowing the whistle or was it a ghost whistle the cop was hearing? what’s the point?

  28.  by  Rodrigo Molinsky

    I just watched the movie. It’s good, I liked it. Good acting, good cinematography, good pace. And before someone try to tell me to change my mind, a disclaimer: it’s all my opinion.

  29.  by  Yiota61

    Some what interesting, but never bought it! If they were going for the B movie feel that I got..

  30.  by  dude

    Just wannabe David Fincher with too many lame plot contrivances. Isn’t it too convenient that Maria Bello’s character falls into a drug induced funk. Otherwise she’d see what her psycho husband is doing and maybe try to stop him

  31.  by  AJ

    This movie was an absolute masterpiece. And Villeneuve has now made four english language masterpieces in a row. Prisoners, Enemy, Sicaro and Arrival. That’s 4 for 4.

    He is already a legend.