'Prisoners' is Oscar-worthy
Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 00:09
“Prisoners” represents the mature, intelligent and gripping thriller that everyone says filmmakers should make more of, but hardly ever finds success at the box office. The film succeeds in holding the audience on the edge of their seats until the very last second. While I enjoyed Riddick, the film felt a bit long at two hours. “Prisoners” managed to keep me from checking my watch or wondering how much time was left in the film. Although it is an exceptional thriller, what makes “Prisoners” so much more is the questions it asks, the answers it then gives us, the actors’ and actresses’ outstanding performances and the themes of religion, human nature, morality and punishment that it presents.
In arguably the best performance of his career, Hugh Jackman plays Keller Dover, a contractor who has just experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when his daughter and his neighbor’s daughter vanish without a trace on Thanksgiving afternoon. The only clue they have is a mysterious RV parked on the street earlier that day. When police find the RV, the unintelligent driver Alex (Paul Dano) tries to run and crashes it. Unfortunately, he has the IQ of a 10-year-old and speaks in creepy whispers, and there is no physical evidence to link him to anything, so he is let go. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Detective Loki, in a performance equal to, if not better, than his role in last year’s “End of Watch.” Loki is a lonely man who becomes so involved in this case that we see him try everything to solve it, and it tears him apart.
Both Dover and Loki do not want Alex to be released from custody, but they cannot stop it. Although they are on the same side, Dover views Loki as his enemy because Loki is always giving him bad news, and Dover does not believe he is handling the investigation well. Dover assaults Alex as he leaves the police station where Alex whispers to him in his creepy voice, “They didn’t cry until I left them.” After following Alex, Dover sees him strangle his aunt’s dog and hears him sing the same tune the girls were singing on Thanksgiving. Dover kidnaps him and binds him to a furnace in an abandoned building he owns, and the torture begins.
The film consists of two narratives put together. On one side, we see Dover and his struggle to keep his family strong. Dover leaves the house to torture Alex for days, demanding he tells him what he knows. Alex doesn’t talk and Dover has to make it worse and worse. Motivated by anger, revenge and the desire for his daughter, he takes it as far as he can, but he finds he cannot go as far as he may need to in order to get answers, and he struggles simultaneously with his guilt of not keeping his daughter safe and of the torture. The other side of the film depicts Detective Loki struggling to piece the case together and the toll it takes on him when he continuously comes across dead ends and worries he will not find the girls alive, or maybe even at all.
The title comes from the literal positions as prisoners of the two kidnapped girls and all the kidnapped victims we meet throughout the film, as well as the prisoner-like position of the police and the parents trapped in a race against time to find the missing girls. Every character in the film is imprisoned in one way or another. “Prisoners” is a very dark film and is not intended for an immature audience, but those who can handle this adventure will not be disappointed. It probably won’t win a single award or maybe even receive a nomination, but of this year so far, this is one of the most Oscar-worthy films I have seen.