Prisoners is a new crime thriller starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano. Jackman plays a carpenter called Keller Dover who goes into meltdown when his daughter and her friend are kidnapped by a mystery man. Dover is frantic and so worried about his daughter that he starts interfering with the police who are trying to locate the missing girls. He clashes with a brash, young copper called Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is in charge of the case leading to conflict between the two men.
Dover is convinced that a local misfit and loner Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is responsible for the crime. He believes the man is holding the girls prisoner somewhere in the town. The only connection between Jones and the crime scene is the fact that his caravan was seen on the street outside the house where the girls went missing. The cops can only detain Dover for forty-eight hours without charge and let him go as they have no evidence he is the culprit. Things then quickly go from bad to worse when Dover decides to kidnap Jones and hold him hostage. He then tries to force Jones into divulging the whereabouts of the two girls. There is no proof that Jones even committed the crime and by taking him Dover himself is liable to end up in jail. As Dover gradually gets more desperate he begins to lose his humanity. How far would a parent be willing to go to find their kid? Sometimes desperate people resort to desperate and dangerous actions that make matters worse instead of better.
There is a really bleak atmosphere in the film which is accentuated by the wintry setting and the fact it is often raining in the trailer. The actors look cold, wet and worn out by strife. The subject matter is serious and the actors do a convincing job of appearing on the edge. Jackman looks different with a full beard and he stands out in the trailer. His transformation from a jovial husband and father into a desperate man is poignant and he is supported by a good cast. Gyllenhall also looks different here as he appears to have lost weight. He is also sporting a neck tattoo and a slicked back undercut hairstyle. As he gets more stressed out he starts to use excessive force while interrogating suspects. All the actors look depressed including him, Dano and Maria Bello who plays Dover’s wife Grace. Dover told her he would always protect his family and now he has failed. She mentions this to him during a tearful exchange and this pushes him further over the edge. Dano’s character Jones looks like a harmless misfit who has probably been picked on all his life. Now he has another challenge to deal with. He looks a bit shifty but that doesn’t automatically make him a kidnapper. However it is of course possible that he actually is the culprit and it will be interesting to try to figure out the truth. Terrence Howard and Viola Davis also appear as neighbours of the Dover family, Franklin and Nancy Birch who support them during this ordeal. Conflict arises between these two also when they find out what Dover has done. Franklin disagrees with the kidnapping of Jones while Nancy feels they should stand back and let Dover do what he needs to.
Scenes in the trailer are also intercut with a few shots of someone drawing a maze-like puzzle on a sheet of paper. The identity of the person doing this is a mystery as only their hands can be seen. It is likely this person is meant to be the kidnapper and the maze may be symbolic. The kidnapper has thrown the people of the town into a maze or trap they struggle to escape from. Normal life can so easily be turned upside down by a random unfortunate incident.
For some reason the film spent years in development as various stars and directors dropped out of the project. Actors like Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Jessica Chastain and Leo DiCaprio were all involved with the project at some stage. Bryan Singer and Antoine Fuqua were also both meant to direct the film before dropping out. Hugh Jackman left the project when Fuqua did but then came back to it to star in the lead role. It is not surprising that so many top class people were involved with the film as it appears to have a compelling story and some serious moral dilemmas. Denis Villeneuve the Canadian director eventually got involved with the film and he has some experience directing dramas.
The narrative and mystery elements used here are similar to those often used by the author Dennis Lehane. Some of his books also involve small towns that are rocked by an unfortunate incident which sometimes involves kids going missing. The town then inevitably falls apart as the plot thickens. There is often no comfort to be found when the crimes are eventually solved and the truth is revealed. The title of the film is also apt considering how all the characters involved become prisoners or captives to some extent. Alex Jones and the kids are held captive literally while characters like Dover are controlled or enthralled by extreme emotions. Gyllenhaal’s character has an interesting surname too and there has to be some meaning behind it. What is the connection between his character and Loki the god from Norse mythology?
Prisoners has an intriguing story and the trailer also shows off some impressive acting from the stars. It is definitely not a feel good movie and perhaps not a film that will appeal to everyone. When watching the trailer the viewer may get the feeling this is the kind of movie that will not have a typical happy Hollywood-style ending.
The film will be released on September 20th. Have a look at the trailer and let us know what you think.