Prisoners (2013) Review

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Prisoners (2013)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Hugh Jackman
Jake Gyllenhaal
Viola Davis
Maria Bello
Terrence Howard
Melissa Leo
Paul Dano

Running time: 153 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
When two young girls go missing, the father of one of the girls (Hugh Jackman) feels he must take matters into his own hands while the police investigate but seem unable to find out what happened to his daughter & her friend.

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My Opinion:

This will be a quickie. I’ve been a terrible movie blogger lately! I’ve been busy so have done very few reviews & when looking at the list of films I’ve watched this year, I see I’ve not reviewed 24 of them. Pathetic! So I’ll try to crank out some short ones over the next few weeks. I’m too wordy anyway!

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The Story:

Prisoners is very highly rated & recommended but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed by the end of the film as I left with far too many unanswered questions. The investigation didn’t feel at all like how one would go in real life (not that I exactly know). The cop (Jake Gyllenhaal) did far too much on his own. Don’t they have partners in real life? Especially for potentially dangerous situations? And there were a few things that seemed so obvious to anyone watching the film yet this cop, who has apparently solved every case he’s ever been on, completely misses these clues or figures them out too late. Like with a lot of movies in this genre, some of the characters do things that don’t make sense and you can’t help but get annoyed when they do something stupid. All in all, there were just far too many loose ends for me to be able to leave the cinema feeling satisfied by the story.

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The characters:

Luckily, the movie is helped by some believable characters & good performances. Hugh Jackman is by far the best thing about the film. He’s very good as the desperate father who will do whatever it takes to find his daughter. His wife (Maria Bello) didn’t have much to do but the parents of the other missing girl (Viola Davis & Terrence Howard) were also very good as two parents going through their worst nightmare.

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The thing that probably annoyed me most about this movie, aside from the problems I had with some plot holes, was the underdevelopment of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character. His character felt like he had a very interesting backstory but this wasn’t explored at all and I left feeling like he must have more scenes that explained his character’s past but were left on the cutting room floor. Which is especially disappointing as, at a length of two and a half hours, you would think they could have devoted a little time to his past. Jackman’s character also suffered a bit from this lack of development. I don’t know. Seeing as the story just didn’t quite come together, getting to know a bit more about the characters & their motivations (what’s with the religion? being a survivalist? having nervous ticks & lots of tattoos?) would have been nice.

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A tense thriller with some very good performances that’s unfortunately let down by an investigation that doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny & lack of character development. The film’s biggest strengths are the performances from its stars and some strong and (potentially) very interesting characters. However, these interesting characters deserved to have much more of the two and a half hour running time devoted to their development. I really felt like we were missing so much of whatever made Jackman’s and especially Gyllenhaal’s characters who they were. Had we learned more about these seemingly deep men with strong beliefs that aren’t explained, I’d have been able to overlook a few problems with the plot.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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That was still too wordy…

33 thoughts on “Prisoners (2013) Review

  1. Oh man! Sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy this one! I actually loved it (and, funny thing, posted my review just a few minutes after yours…haha). But I see where you’re coming from–there were definitely loose ends with the plot, and the characters could’ve been developed more. For me, that wasn’t enough to ruin it, but I do understand. Nice review!

  2. nice review Mutant!!!!!!! While I thoroughly enjoyed Prisoners myself, I think you make a lot of legit points about how this film would play out on a second viewing. My concern is that now it would be a significantly less thrilling movie bc of all these plot holes and conveniences that pop up. Wasn’t enough to detract from the first time, but I’d imagine the movie loses a lot of its effect upon subsequent views.

    • Thanks! 🙂 Yes, I think this is one that definitely won’t stand up to multiple viewings. Not saying I didn’t enjoy it but it’s not one I’d watch again anytime soon. At least the performances were good!

  3. Oh shit, THIS is Prisoners?!? I was on this set back in March and took some photos of myself on this creepy ass couch and next to some corpse tied to a chair. All Iknew was that it was Jackman/Gyllenhall in some kidnapping thing. I sometimes trip into these kinds of situations.

    • Really? Cool! 🙂 Indeed, there is a corpse tied to a chair. Spoiler! 😉 Did you post the photos? Thanks for commenting – you’ve reminded me how far behind I am on reading other blogs so expect me to show up on your blog over the next few days!

      • You ain’t missing much on my end. The baby is dominating every waking second. (Although, having said that, I’ve got three new pieces to unveil this week, starting with a Frankenstein collage tomorrow!)

        I have not posted photos because my friend working on set would have gotten in trouble at the time, but I think its safe to upload them now. I should also find the pics of when I was at Masters FX to test a stunt, and found my way into their morgue filled with eviscerated characters from True Blood, A Haunting in Connectivut and some other stuff. That was SURREAL. I Frenched a zombie!

  4. The cast is what really saves this movie from being a conventional piece of junk by the end. However, even by that point, the story is so compelling that you’re already more invested than ever. Good review.

    • Thanks. 🙂 Definitely agree – the cast was great so it’s a shame they were let down a bit by the story. It was very good & intense while watching, though – I did enjoy it this one time but it’s not a multiple watcher for me.

      • Good point you have about the Gyllenhaal character not being developed properly. I too enjoyed this one but certain scenes made me a bit uncomfterable(in a good way) to wanna watch it again

    • Thanks! 🙂 I know I was kind of meh about it but it’s definitely worth watching for anyone who is a fan of any of the stars or who likes the crime/drama/thriller type genre. To be fair, it’s not usually my favorite genre. It’s a good watch. Very intense!

  5. I’d give this pretty much the same score as you (surprise surprise 🙂 ). I thought the final third was a little generic and I thought some of it was a little too vague in who people were and their motives. I thought the performances were pretty good though and I liked the cinematography. Pretty good but nowt special for me.

    • Lol. We seriously like all the same films it seems. 😉 Glad someone does agree with me – most people are really raving over it so I wondered if I was being too picky. I was mostly confused by Gyllenhaal’s character. What was with the ticks and tattoos and brief mention of being in a boys home or whatever?! It’s like they set up this complex character in the original script or something & then decided to just drop it all…

      • Yeah totally, it was as if they wanted to keep everything as vague as possible but I think they went too far with it. He had some kind of Mason’s ring too which they focused on a couple of times but was never mentioned. Same how they didn’t really explain the snakes or even who that weird bloke was who was drawing the mazes.

      • That’s right – I noticed they kept focusing on his ring too! Yeah – the guy drawing the mazes – have to admit I was losing the plot a bit by that point. Was he actually one of the kidnap victims and he escaped or was let go? That’s what I thought. They really didn’t explain much. Also glossed over whatever happened with Jackman’s father. Apparent suicide or something? Just too many loose ends…

  6. The real disappointment, I think, is that the characters are Prisoner’s focus in its first half. And then they essentially disappear so we can see a forty-plus minute, too-slow-to-develop plot twist. It’s a very odd difference in story-telling style.

    • Exactly! It started out quite promising with characters who seemed like they were going to be really complex and then they dropped all that and didn’t further develop any of them AT ALL. Disappointing.

      • Very. I mean … Prisoners has what 10 ish Oscar nominees serving integral roles in its production? I think I expected more, though the September release date scared me. I hoped it was due to the film being too dark for mass audiences. Turns out that was part of it, but the flick’s flaws were another part. Oh well.

  7. Another top-notch review.

    I saw this last week and, given all the hype, I was disappointed. I mean, it is kind of a run of the mill crime thriller. Yes, there are some big name, and yes, the performances are good, but so what?

    It was too long, I didn’t understand why the characters behaved the way they did and the ending? Argh!

    Hmm, I might re post this as my review seeing as I haven’t been able to muster the enthusiasm to do a thorough job.

  8. Reblogged this on Cinema Parrot Disco and commented:

    As part of my IMDB Top 250 Challenge, I’m reblogging this review I did of Prisoners (I didn’t love it). This movie entered the Top 250 after I started my little project. It is currently at number 229 out of 250.

    There’s a big list of new Top 250 films available for guest reviews. Let me know if you’d like to sign up for any of the films listed below. 🙂

    Cool Hand Luke 1967
    The Wrestler 2008
    The Graduate 1967
    The Lives of Others 2006
    The Sting 1973
    Die Hard 1988
    Léon 1994
    The Hobbit 2012
    Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991
    All About Eve 1950
    2001: A Space Odyssey 1968
    Rain Man 1988
    The Best Years of Our Lives 1946
    Before Sunrise 1995
    Before Sunset 2004
    The Help 2011
    Catch Me If You Can 2002

  9. Great review. I love this film so much, though I know a few that absolutely hated it. I like that it has such differing opinions about it.

  10. Pingback: Sicario (2015) Review | Cinema Parrot Disco

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