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Film

Film review: Prisoners

On October 17, 2013

By Sophia Whitfield

This tense thriller has harrowing subject matter. If you can cope with it then it is worth seeing.

Hugh Jackman plays Keller Dover, a father whose six year old daughter Anna goes for a walk with a friend, Joy Birch, and fails to return home. The Dovers and Birches have been best friends for years and must now navigate the uncertainty of life as their worst nightmare unfolds.

It is Thanksgiving Day in Pennsylvania and the streets are empty, save for a campervan parked on the street. This quickly becomes a vehicle of interest in the police investigation. After interrogating the driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), it becomes obvious that he has the mental age of a ten year old and could not be responsible for abducting two young girls.

Keller cannot fathom that the police have let the prime suspect go and embarks on his own crusade to extract information from Alex Jones. Jackman perfectly portrays an anguished father convinced that only he is prepared to do what is needed to save his daughter. Keller loses all concept of reason, driven by an obsessive force to save his daughter.

Detective Loki, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, is an investigator with a 100% success rate. In this case he is hampered by the fact that he must follow the rules. A loner, having grown up an orphan and gone from one institution straight into another in the police force, Loki likes to work by himself. Keller’s continual interference tries Loki’s patience. His clipped speech and continual blinking present a jittery manner that leads Keller to distrust him.

The bleak grey surroundings of continual rain and sleet in the working class area of Pennsylvania add to the sombre mood of the film. Director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies 2010) uses this to propagate tension as he poses a nightmare scenario and then looks at human behaviour in that scenario. Prisoners is an unsettling thriller, that will both grip and horrify you in equal measure.

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