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Prisoners - Two wrongs don't make a right?
on 24 February 2014
This is one of those films to happily pass away a few hours, and which on the plus side generally taxes your grey matter trying to figure out the various complex plot twists and turns. There is no need to go into great depth into the plot as other reviews have captured the core story line of the abduction of two children from a house in a small American town and the desperate attempt by one father, Keller Dover played by Hugh Jackman, to find the perpetrators. The film directed by the excellent Denis Villeneuve is one of a good man who has turned into a monster to achieve a desirable end. It poses a central question namely can two wrongs make right. To be fair "Prisoners" has it moments and is often ominous and unsettling. There is also a nice performance from Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki the man responsible for the investigation. He is no supercop. Loki is often confused, tired and bewildered by events. He misses some obvious clues and a key witness commits suicide in an investigation room under his supervision. Gyllenhaal holds the film together although like all detectives in thrillers he can frustrate the viewer by working alone when he should call back up. The mood of the film itself is gothic like in terms of its greyness and dark foreboding. Rain pours in in almost every scene and the backdrop of a small American town sees a desperate Jackman take a key suspect to a suitably abandoned building in a rundown neighbourhood where he tortures him to see he can reveal whether or not this man has kidnapped his daughter.
The problems emerge however with Jackman's solid if rather one dimensional performance which comes over as a sort of redneck Jean Valjean. But the two biggest flaws are the sheer length of the film whose labyrinth plot is never quite fully worked out and reconciled. As a result some of the acceptable plot red herrings in the excellent first hour of the film end up smelling rather ripe by the end. This leads to the final flaw in that the ending does not deliver a killer punch and indeed you rise from your seat and almost trip over the loose ends. This reviewer is not saying don't watch this film. It is ten times above the bland horrors populating most cinema multiplexes and a taut, claustrophobic thriller. With a bit more judicious editing and a tighter plot this could have been an outright classic.