The Ninjabot

Prisoners: Testing Your Morality At Every Turn

Posted on September 20, 2013 at 6:02 pm by Jess Hicks

Prisoners poster

Prisoners is one of those films that poises the question’s what would you do in a particularly horrifying situation. What would you do if your small child was abducted during a holiday? The question is something we don’t want to think about but in film form it’s sort of a vicarious “what if” situation. Revenge films are fun because we get somewhat of an excuse to root for the “good” guy while he/she does some really terrible things in the name of “justice”. Does that make it right? No, but it does bring out the honest truth of the human psyche.

The film plays out like a Japanese or Korean revenge story, each character has a depressing depth that doesn’t get too much explanation but somehow fills each scene with emotion. We feel bad for these parents who lost their kids but at the same time we can’t fully agree with what Keller (Hugh Jackman) does with Alex (Paul Dano). The story is very simplistic but that’s really what it needs to be, it’s a whodunit sure but when it comes down to it it’s a story of revenge (misplaced as it may be).

What I really enjoyed about Prisoners was the sense of realism the setting brought. I live in Ohio where the weather is crappy 90% of the year, people where jeans from Goodwill,and  religion is around all the time whether you believe or not. Being set in the suburbia of Pennsylvania is pretty much the closest you get to Ohio. There are no flashy houses, palm trees, or fast talking criminals with master plans. It’s just simple families on Thanksgiving that suffer a terrible tragedy.

Hugh Jackman Prisoners

The performances were all great in this film but the two that really stand out are Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover and Paul Dano as Alex Jones. Jackman puts so much emotion and feeling into his portrayal of broken and it really helps you to look at him as someone other than Wolverine. As his judgement wanes we get to see that he isn’t just a tough guy prepared for anything but he has depth and maybe even guilt. Guilt is something we don’t often see in “vigilante” or revenge movies. Most of the time the person is totally justified in the crimes he/she is committing against another person, regardless of how awful said person may or may not be.

On the other spectrum we have Paul Dano as the may or may not be kidnapper does a wonderful job of simultaneously creeping the audience out while making you feel super sorry for him. The guy says maybe 15 words the whole movie but every single one of them is calculated and manipulative. While we don’t know for sure until the end whether he is the villain or a misunderstood underdeveloped patsy he does play convincing on both cases. While he was being tortured by Jackman I went round and round wanting him to get what he “deserved” and wanting someone to find out and help him. During the torture sequences the makeup artists did a fantastic job on Dano’s face, it’s absolutely cringe inspiring.


Though the film has flaws and is a tad bit lengthy I think the audience will enjoy this whodunit thriller. It will make you question or morals and even make you second guess yourself when you think you have it figured out. The entire film is engaging and well paced despite it’s lengthy run time of 2 hours and 40 minutes. I would have shaved off at least 15 minutes of some filler but that aside I really had a good time with this film. I even only figured out half of it by the  end! Which is really good for me! And speaking of the end, though very similar to that of another film, will likely leave most movie goers on the edge of their seats. Don’t let the run time scare you away from this film, it has great performances by all cast members and is just an overall good story.

Prisoners: B+

You can follow Jess on Twitter @DangerJess_

Below are some major spoilers that elaborate on the flaws I mentioned above, beware.



As I mentioned the film is not without flaws and the major one for me came after the big reveal. There are several sort possible people who could be the abductor other than Alex Jones. One is the character of Bobbie Taylor (David Dastmalchian) who ends up being a former victim of the real criminal: Alex Jones’ “Aunt” played by Melissa Leo. Bobbie Taylor was one of the children she and her husband abducted that somehow escaped from their home. What is not explained is how this young boy survives and doesn’t go to the police. Also, at one point Leo says “I almost forgot about Bobbie” . HOW do you forget that a child you abducted escaped and could have possibly ruined everything for you??? Movie, you have failed me in your sense making on this one…


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