This is a film that I’d been wanting to see for quite some time but just never did. I love a dark intelligent thriller that has juicy twists and turns waiting for the audience and Prisoners fits that description for sure. This is a near slam dunk and there’s a lot of right that’s done here but there’s also some things they could’ve done without.
The actor that does the best job and leaves the lasting impression here is for sure Jake Gyllenhaal who plays the lead detective in the search for the two missing girls. Gyllenhaal has always been a deeply affecting and serious actor ever since October Sky. Here he excels as the no BS detective who is pushed to the brim trying to crack this kidnapping case. He finds a great balance of normality and searing intensity. He isn’t constantly going crazy and behaving with an over the top intensity and he’s able to come across as a believable person because of the smart way he balances his characters behavior.
On the flip side of that coin, Hugh Jackman, while he has some great scenes here, makes the mistake of performing in an over the top crazy manner 24/7. Jackman shows his great talent here for sure and I don’t want it to sound like I’m panning his performance because there are truly inspired moments. BUT I do think it’s a mistake for him to be the exact same note throughout. There are scenes where he behaves in a crazed way when it’s not really called for and we never see him any other way and I think that really does his character a disservice, it makes him less believable.
Viola Davis is an exquisite actress and that’s very evident here as she plays the mother of one of the missing girls. Davis plays her role with a quietness and a desperation that I think is not only believable but also effective. I wish that Davis had some more screen time here. Terrence Howard and Maria Bello play supporting roles as well but unfortunately don’t leave that much of a mark. While their performances weren’t bad they also weren’t very memorable but that’s not really their fault because most of the screen time is focused on Gyllenhaal and Jackman. The final cast member I must mention is the supporting actor that left the biggest mark, Melissa Leo. Leo’s character is a quiet somewhat eccentric woman and she brings a lot of skill to her performance. I would say that her, Davis, and Gyllenhaal were the ones that were able to find the perfect sweet spot in their performances.
The script we have here is one that I admire for coming up with some unique plot developments but also take some issue with for being over long and focusing a little too much on Hugh Jackman and Paul Dano. There is one very important discovery that comes about at one point during the film which proves to be a connection and I thought the way it was stumbled upon was very clever and interesting. I applaud the answer we are given to this mystery too because it’s a unique one and I like seeing fresh ideas in films. This is not a regular whodunnit for sure and it has satisfying payoff in several ways.
Now with all being said, this film is two and a half hours long and I do not think it needed to be, I think the overly long nature of the runtime ends up hurting the film overall. I’ve seen great films that are this long or longer. But if you’re going to take this long you have to really make it count and keep it going and unfortunately Prisoners lags in certain areas in the middle and some of that could’ve and should’ve been trimmed in my opinion. Some of the content I would’ve liked to have been trimmed had to do with Jackman and Dano’s characters. I felt like there were simply too many scenes with them two and several of them consisted of the same stuff over and over.
Prisoners is overall well made, has some very unique plot developments that I appreciate, and features several inspired performances. While it is overly long and Jackman’s character is simply too much at times, this is still a worthy thriller that I do suggest.
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