‘They only cried when I left them.’

Hello moviegoers, today I’ll be taking a look at “Prisoners” and has there ever been a more suitable name for a movie than
“Prisoners” is for this one?

This is one vicious film and it is steeped in themes of imprisonment and the dread of being trapped physically, emotionally, and any other way you could come up with to trap somebody. In this, French Director Denis Villeneuve does an exceptional job of wrapping a Pennsylvania neighborhood and us in a shroud of grey clouds, mist, rain and doubt on his way to delivering a very durable thriller.

The film starts with Keller Dover (played by Hugh Jackman) reciting the Lord’s Prayer which is followed by a kill-shot from a rifle fired by his teenage son Ralph (played by Dylan Minnette) that secures thanksgiving dinner and establish conflicts of morality and the role of faith.

“Prisoner”(3 sweet potatoes out of four) Stars: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo; Director: Denis Villeneuve; Genre: Crime Thriller, rated R; runtime: 2 hours, 33 minutes; Opens Friday, Sept. 17th

Keller, his wife Grace (played by Maria Bello), and their two children, Ralph and infant daughter Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) meet at (Franklin and Nancy Birch’s played by Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) home for thanksgiving dinner. They, like the Dovers, have a teenager Eliza (Zoe Soul) and a younger daughter Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons).

The feast among family friends is typical, but the mood soon changes and grows progressively concerned when it is realized that Anna and Joy are not with their teenage siblings, and an RV they were playing on earlier is no longer parked.

The RV is later found and a prime suspect in the girls’ disappearance, Alex Jones (played by Paul Dano), is apprehended by Detective Loki (played here by Jake Gyllenhaal). But, when the RV checks out clean and a lie detector test proves inconclusive due to Jones’ low IQ, the suspect t has to be let go. Jones returns home where he lives with his widowed aunt Holly(played by Melissa Leo) who is detached and dealing with issues of her own faith.

The guilt Keller, a self-styled survivalist who likes to be prepaid, feels is compounded when his wife reminds him that he promised he would always protect them. This compels Keller to depart from any moral reservations he might have had to take the law into his own hands. He enlists Franklin, who is deeply conflicted to help him where Keller thinks the law has failed. Keller’s metamorphosis is quick and it has to be because the girls are running out of time. Keller is methodical in his actions, which makes the film more effectively chilling.

Keller’s subsequent actions lead to the most disturbing image I have seen in a movie, ever.

“Prisoners” tackles the question of how far one will go and what lines they will cross when a loved one’s wellbeing is at risk. It also underscores the issues of abuse and the potential for abuse that the mentally challenged call victim to. A confrontation between Keller and Jones has Jones whisper, so only Keller can hear, ‘they only cried when I left them’. I think this is someone who is very limited trying to communicate something that is not intended to be malicious, but it is nevertheless seen as an indictment by the only person who hears it.

Jackman is intense and uncompromising in this roll and Gyllenhaal gives another solid performance as the steady lawman who’s Detective Loki does not give and inch to Jackman’s Keller as one scene outside a liquor store illustrates. These and all around good performances by the rest of the cast get “Prisoners” across the finish line in good shape.

I do, however,  think  the movie is about thirty minutes longer than it needed to be mainly because the script left the detective work a little inconsistent, if not sloppy.

“Prisoners” is a very good, layered, movie and I give it 3 sweet potatoes out of four.

This has been your resident moviegoer, and I’ll see you after the movies at moviegoersview.com.