"Harrowing Search for Two Missing Girls"
PRISONERS is a riveting, morally complex thriller about a Christian father who goes unhinged and breaks moral and societal rules to find his missing daughter. PRISONERS has a strong moral worldview mixed with overt Christian references, including prayer, but the story and the violence are intense, there’s lots of mostly strong foul language, and other immoral behavior.
The movie stars Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover, a recovered alcoholic turned devoutly Catholic family man, a carpenter struggling for work. When his young daughter and her best friend disappear on Thanksgiving, he loses his bearings and begins a maniacal search for her. His search escalates into seriously questionable behavior when he himself kidnaps the lead suspect after police release him without charges. He holds Alex prisoner and proceeds to beat him up repeatedly to get him to talk.
Meanwhile, a dogged policeman named Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) leads the search for the girls and starts to notice that Keller is acting strangely while disappearing for long hours at a time. He doesn’t yet realize that Keller has taken Alex hostage.
The question becomes, who will find the missing girls first? The detective or the angry father?
PRISONERS is one of the most intense, harrowing movies to be released in a long time. Every performance is expertly rendered, with Jackman and Gyllenhaal turning in some of the best work of their already impressive careers. Director Denis Villeneuve ratchets the tension to high levels throughout the movie without allowing the story to become over the top and risk slipping into pulp fiction territory.
While the movie is riveting throughout, there are a couple of plot holes and inexplicable character motivations that prevent PRISONERS from being the full-bore classic it might have been. The movie also goes on too long and doesn’t give viewers any down time in between what seems like several different very intense endings.
PRISONERS forces viewers to consider what choices they would make in the same situation of having their child kidnapped, as well as whether they could maintain their own faith under those circumstances. [Spoilers Follow] It turns out that the villain says they lost their faith when their son died of cancer. So now, the villain says, they are waging a war against God by taking children away from other parents. In the end, however, the father seems to regain his Christian faith in God, though he also suffers some bad consequences for his actions in torturing the one suspect.
PRISONERS is not an easy movie to watch and will prove difficult for many to handle. Besides the intense storyline, it contains lots of strong foul language and some very strong, extreme violence. So, despite its positive references to Christian prayer and moral sentiments, extreme caution is advised.
(BB, CC, Pa, Ab, LLL, VVV, AA, D, MM) Strong moral worldview with overt Christian references, including the Lord’s Prayer is recited two or three times, marred by plot development where Christian character loses his way in frantic search for missing daughter but then seems to regain his faith toward the end as he suffers the consequences of bad actions, and drunken, troubled isolated Catholic priest is registered as a sex offender and has been removed from his parish but has key evidence to solve the case and villain says they and their family gave up being devout after family tragedy, to become an enemy of God, but the villain is overcome at the end; at least 68 obscenities (including many “f” words), three strong profanities and seven light profanities, plus vomiting in one scene; some extreme, very strong and some strong violence with blood includes man shoots himself in mouth and head, torture and implied torture, father holds prisoner a suspect in young daughter’s disappearance/kidnapping and punches him hard across the face resulting in lots of abrasions and blood, woman lifts sack over prisoner’s head and viewers see his face is incredibly puffy from the beatings he’s been taking to get him to talk, man holds down prisoner’s hand on porcelain and viciously swings hammer near prisoner’s hand and head several times and causes the porcelain to break into pieces each time he swings, hammer ends up stuck in wall near prisoner’s head, man imprisons suspect in small shower boarded up and lets shower spray scalding water on prisoner to get him to talk, and audience hears man scream, detective slams suspect’s head against table and a scuffle ensues, boxes being opened are full of snakes and children’s clothes, man forced to drink tea with knock-out agent in it, villain injects girl with some kind of poison, and she’s rushed to hospital to save her life, girl foams at mouth from poison before she’s saved in nick of time, man holds dog up by its neck using leash, man crashes van into tree, detective grazed in head and has to drive car fast while blood streams into one eye, corpse found, etc.; no sex; no nudity; alcohol use and hints of past alcohol abuse; smoking; and, lying, disobeying police instructions, moral relativism, mother becomes distraught and bedridden when daughter disappears and is presumed kidnapped, hiding information from police, references to sex offenders as possible suspects but nothing salacious is specifically mentioned, implied, or depicted, and policeman breaks his oath to uphold the law and this results in tragedy.
PRISONERS is a riveting, morally complex thriller about the desperate search for two missing girls. The movie stars Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover, a recovered alcoholic turned devoutly Catholic family man. When his young daughter and her best friend disappear on Thanksgiving, Dover begins a maniacal search for her. His search escalates into seriously questionable behavior when he holds the lead suspect prisoner and tries to force him to talk. Meanwhile, a dogged detective named Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) leads the search for the girls. The question becomes, who will find the missing girls first? The detective or the angry father?
PRISONERS is one of the most harrowing movies in a long time. Every performance is expertly rendered, especially Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal as the father and the detective. PRISONERS forces viewers to consider what choices they would make in the same situation of having their child kidnapped. Ultimately, the movie becomes a battle of faith versus non-faith. The villain reflects the father’s growing lack of faith. Their confrontation is what helps the father regain his faith. Extreme caution is advised, however.