Prisoners: Not Your Standard Procedural Police Thriller


Prisoners is a taut, methodical and meticulous film.  For its 151 minute run-time (which feels much shorter) you will be challenged with moral dilemmas all the while trying to figure out where things will ultimately end up.  The script, settings, locations, cinematography and musical score could all be described in one word: Ominous.  The acting by the cast can be described in one word as well: Superb.

Hugh Jackman (X-Men, The Prestige, Deception) and his performance as Kelly Dover is nothing short of ferocious.  Dover is all about being prepared for anything and then taking things into your own hands if the result-to-date is not acceptable.  Jake Gyllenhaal (Moonlight Mile, Brokeback Mountain) plays Detective Loki who’s character operates  on the long game theory. Loki simply never gives up; because he knows he will find the answer.  The two actors and roles are a wonderful compliment to each other.

Prisoners operates under the deft hands of Director Denis Villenue (Incendies, Polytechnique and Maelstrom).  Villenue puts on display the power and rage someone feels when the dearest aspect of their life is taken away.  However, what is more powerful is Villenue putting on display three additional aspects even more challenging to convey than an outraged parent. First, is the detective not giving up – without some silly last second clue to move the story to its end quickly.  Second, are family members in total despair who are confronted with moral dilemmas and choices where some would viewed in the eyes of many as actions no better than the those of the criminals.  Third, are the criminals themselves.  Some are victims as well, while others and their motive simply defy logic or reason.

Prisoner’s has the fortune of five others actors who have played leads in recent features.  All of them have strong and important supporting roles.

The real strength of the film is the intricacy and attention to detail provided by Arron Guzikowski’s (Contraband) script.  If you are paying attention and a solid detective in your own right, the answers appear before you.

******Background to read after you have seen the film******

This is a film from a well respected Canadian director and a small and well respected film company (Alcon).  The budget was tiny by Hollywood standards ($40M )  In just two weeks of theatrical release the film has generated $30M in ticket sales.

The Screenplay

Arron Guzikowski wrote refinements to the script at the request of the production team from the supply closet of an ad agency on the East Coast where he worked as a office clerk.  The original script written without a known buyer was completed in 2009.

Location, Location, Location

Locations are tricky and a bad one (e.g., Vancouver BC posing as Seattle or Portland or Toronto ON posing as Washington D.C.) drives me off the deep end.  I offer no apologies. Prisoners is set in Pennsylvania in late November.  If you have lived in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Upstate New York or Ontario, Canada you know the look and feel of late November in this region. In Prisoners the feel of the location is perfect to the T.  You might even swear on a book of bibles you have stood on the spot where they filmed a sequence.  And where was it filmed?  Conyers, Georgia, with some footage in nearby Porterdale and Atlanta.  I have visited all three of those places in my life and I got to say they look like Pennsylvania in the late fall, but would never have guess it as the location.

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