‘Prisoners’ features strong performances despite shaky storyline

The film ‘Prisoners” focuses on several well-known cinematic themes, including tests of faith, fear, and values. In this film, Hugh Jackman portrays Keller Dover, the small-town everyman who finds his family, faith and values questioned when his daughter and the daughter of the Birch family,  (Birch patriarch portrayed by Terrence Howard) are kidnapped while left unattended for a few moments. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the part of Detective David Wayne Loki, who works with and sometimes against Jackman to find the missing girls. 

Much like”The Vanishing” (1988, Franco-Dutch version , and the 1993 American version with Jeff Bridges) “Prisoners” shares the intense psychological stress of the characters with the audience. Viewers slowly feel themselves take on the stress, and the unnerving sense of dread that permeates the film.


While Jackman and Gyllenhaal give impressive, increasingly intense performances throughout the film, the storyline fails to develop with them. The film attempts to withhold information and pieces of the story to keep the audience guessing,  but the film’s greatest accomplishment is that we know what will happen but still feel frightened. Paul Dano’s performance as a damaged, disturbed individual is haunting. There are several memorable visual scenes, but the plot never meets up with the rest of the film.

Film Review Prisoners

The story of parents losing their children to predators is not new; the biggest fear lies somewhere between never knowing and learning the truth.

Prisoners Terrence Howard Copyright http://www.andsoitbeginsfilms.com

Overall, the film left me feeling manipulated and emotionally traumatized, as though I had just watched three hours of the Houston nightly news and then re-watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Prisoners: Melissa Leo stars as Holly Jones and Paul Dano stars as Alex Jones in Warner Bros. Pictures' Prisoners (2013)

I’m curious to see how the film will be received during Oscars season,  but I’m even more curious as to how this will affect the ongoing “nerd trends” and sales of oversize glasses.

Despite the weak storyline, once the credits appeared, I quickly exited the theater to meet up with a friend for coffee. Even after ending, the film “Prisoners” leaves you with a chill you just can’t seem to shake.

Rating: B-

Culture Spoon

Freelance Writer and Photographer based in San Antonio, Texas

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