New film “Prisoners” a unique, gripping mystery-drama

William Amos, Staff Writer

“Prisoners” is rattling.

There is more to this film than simply what you see and it shows you everything.  It’s brutally raw and sympathetically vulnerable, playing on audience’s emotions.

Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables, The Wolverine) knocks it out of that park as Keller Dover, a man riding an emotional roller coaster after his daughter has been abducted  only a short distance from their own front door.

No doubt about it, you’re along for the ride and you feel every peak, drop, and turn.

Terrance Howard (Lee Daniel’s The Bulter, Iron Man) plays Franklin Birch, whose daughter was also taken.  Howard, who portrays a more level-headed approach and tries to “keep it together” for the good of his family, becomes more conflicted when presented with a moral dilemma that makes him question the line between right and wrong.

Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Jarhead) also stars as Detective Loki, a conflicted man with a “checkered past” which is only alluded to and not completely divulged.

Gyllenhaal’s complex performance, like so many aspects of this film is built layer upon layer, projecting a lone wolf mentality with a dedicated, even obsessive disposition toward solving the crime.  He internalized his emotions throughout the film, keeping it all bottled up until the key moments when it becomes necessary to unleash upon other characters including Jackman who, in contrast, is a loose cannon experiencing an endless meltdown from start to finish.

Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood, Little Miss Sunshine) plays Alex Jones, a young man who is suspected of abducting the missing children.  There is no shortage of excellence on the part of Dano as he once again delivers another unique and powerful performance.

Emotions fly from the screen and hit you from the start.  The film is lengthy but well-paced and takes its time while the story never stops progressing and always leaves viewers waiting anxiously to see what is going to happen next.

The film’s greatest quality in this viewer’s opinion is that nothing is ever merely what it appears to be.  Just when you think you have it figured out, they throw you another curveball.

Certainly, another fine aspect of the film is the concept of the hero’s journey and the variety of avenues one takes along the way.  The question of the ending justifying the means comes becomes key.  When does a hero, in this case father who seeks the safe return of his own daughter, cross the line and lose control?  The powerful message of faith is rooted in the film.  How do we maintain our faith in God and even each other when we feel helpless and alone?

Prisoners is not only worth watching but I strongly recommend it must be seen more than once, with the guarantee that if you missed something the first time, you’re bound to find something new to latch onto upon second viewing.

It is highly recommended especially if you have a flare for the dramatic and you’re intrigued by a compelling and gripping mystery.