SYNOPSIS: The story is fairly simple. Best friends Keller and Grace Dover (Jackman and Maria Bello), Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) and their kids spend Thanksgiving together. After dinner the youngest members of the family, Anna Dover (Erin Gerasimovich) and Joy Birch (Kyla Drew Simmons) go for a walk and never return. The police, led by Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal), arrest a suspect, Alex Jones (Paul Dano) who Keller is convinced is the guilty man. When Alex is released, Keller takes matters into his own hands. Kidnapping Jones, he tries to beat a confession out of him. When that doesn’t work his methods escalate.
Richard: 3 ½ STARS
Mark: 4 STARS
Richard: Mark, Death Wish, the Charles Bronson revenge drama, painted its main character as a vigilante hero, someone who evened the score when the police couldn’t. Prisoners isn’t as cut and dried. It asks the question, How far would you go to get the information you need to protect your family? As played by Hugh Jackman Keller Dover is a conflicted man. I think he knows what he’s doing is wrong, but doesn’t see a choice. Either way, it’s going to get audiences talking about the ethics of vigilantism. What did you think?
Mark: there will be a lot of debate about the rougher scenes in this film. But it’s a debate that has been in the news all through Jack Bauer’s similar dilemma in 24 and the American waterboarding controversy. It probably goes back to Machiavelli and his “ends justifies the means” dictum. But no matter which side you are on this is a gripping thriller that didn’t let me go for its full two and a half hour running time.
RC: It is good stuff, but it almost felt like two movies to me. The first hour-and-a-half is a good family drama about a man pushed to extremes after the disappearance of his daughter, while the last hour feels different. I don’t want to give anything away, but it becomes more like an episode of Criminal Minds than the first part. I enjoyed both halves, but I preferred the complexity of the family drama.
MB: I guess the long first half gives it the depth so the second half feels more than an episode of Criminal Minds. It requires great acting which it has, although seeing Hugh Jackman in the lead, I kept expecting him to burst into song in the first half hour. Did you like Paul Dano? Should he send Brad Dourif a cut of his paycheque?
RC: I thought the performances were uniformly strong. We’re used to seeing Jackman differently—as a superhero or as a 19th century balladeer—but here he’s really volatile and powerful. Dano takes a tough, thankless role and in the little screen time he isn’t chained up or worse (NO SPOILERS HERE) keeps us wondering about the guilt or innocence of his character.
MB: there are a lot of plot twists in this movie and Dano’s character is only one of them. This is the kind of movie you should see with an empty bladder because you won’t want to miss any tricks.