Prisoners (2013)

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Aaron Guzikowski
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Dylan Minnette, Zoe Borde

It’s Thanksgiving and the Dovers are celebrating with their friends and neighbors, the Birchs. But when the little daughters of both families suddenly disappear, the festivities are quickly interrupted. As Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is called, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) quickly loses his temper. And when suspect Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is apprehended to be released soon afterwards, Keller decides to take justice into his own hands.

Prisoners has a rather similar theme as Big Bad Wolves, so it’s hard not to compare the two and in that comparison, Prisoners stays a bit behind – but that’s just because Big Bad Wolves was that exceptional. Prisoners is, in fact, a really good movie.


Plotwise, there are a few things the movie gives away too easily: [SPOILERS, I guess]: the labyrinth necklace was painfully obvious, as was the whistle ending. It was also clear that Alex wouldn’t turn out to be the bad guy and by casting Melissa Leo as the aunt, it was apparent that she would have a greater part to play. [/SPOILERS]

But for most of the time the movie kept me guessing, pretty much until the end. And I’ve seen so many movies that it’s not easy to do that anymore. So that was pretty cool. Compliments to Guzikowski on that count.


The cast was excellent. Especially Jake Gyllenhaal was entrancing and his character was fascinating. There was so much hinted at with him, it made me want to watch the movie over and over again just to figure him out (compliments to Guzikowski again). But everyone else was fantastic, too – from Jackman’s ultrarepublican father to Bello’s depressed mother to Dano’s confused Alex.

Villeneuve tells the story in moody pictures,  with excellent pacing and just the right amount of hints and insinuations.


Summarizing: See it, it’s excellent.


    • I just read through your review and while I do agree with certain plot weaknesses (like the necklace) and that the movie gives some things away too easily (as detailed above), I didn’t mind those things and I thought the movie was completely tense and not boring at all. [The thing with the license plate I didn’t notice at all.]

      What I find most interesting about your review though is that you judge Loki from the view of a genre-savvy spectator as if he himself should be a genre-savvy spectator. But he’s not. He’s part of the story. For him, the camera didn’t zoom on the necklace. For him the story isn’t a movie that he has seen a million times already. Yeah, he isn’t always totally focused – but I think that there’s more to that than dumbness because there is so much hinted at with his character. The constant twitching, the phone calls, the tattoos, … I was wondering if he was using drugs.

      And that the reasoning of the bad guys didn’t make much sense if you think about it, didn’t bother me one bit. They were serial child abductors/murderers. I don’t expect them to have logically sound thinking processes behind that. It made sense to them. That was enough for me.

      I also think that you judge Alex way too harshly. You have here a severely traumatized person who is continuously traumatized again and again and again. He doesn’t really talk, not because he isn’t physically able to or because he doesn’t want to, but because he can’t. I think it’s quite realistic that torturing him won’t really change that. If there’s one thing to criticize there it’s the sentence he says to Keller that gets the whole thing rolling. That was OOC.

      • Yes, in real life the camera wouldn’t zoom on the necklace (then again, I’m not sure it actually did in the movie), but if he is such a good cop as the movie wants us to believe he is, I would expect him to notice it. I mean, it’s rather unusual. And hey, I guess someone DID notice it, since someone made a picture of it for the file. So he didn’t even have to notice it himself, but I just can’t believe that he didn’t go through the file and didn’t take note of it. And if he did take note of it I find it unbelievable that he wouldn’t remember it later when the other guy started to draw his labyrinth. And, as I said in my review, if the script writer would at least have given him the courtesy to make the connection himself, albeit late. But noooo, he has to stumble upon it by chance. And don’t even get me started about the way he acted at the traffic light. That was just way too stupid. And again: He’s not just a cop, he’s supposed to be a good cop. The movie clearly states this, but what follows later totally contradicts that statement.

        I didn’t want to come off as harsh concerning Alex. Of course I felt for the guy. I just found it implausible that – given his state of mind – he wouldn’t spill the beans sooner. Overall, I found the way he was portrayed very inconsistent.

        • As I said, I agree about the necklace and I agree about the coincidence-stupidity but I can also understand why he wouldn’t immediately make the connection. I just didn’t think he was that bad a cop as you obviously thought.

          And I also didn’t think that Alex was that inconsistent, but now we’re in “personal impression”-country where we can argue for hours and not get anywhere. :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.