Prisoners— a Thriller

Most folks don’t like to go to movies that play out on a big screen every parent’s next to worst nightmare—your kids are snatched. I say next to worse, because what is worse is when your child suddenly dies— trust me, I’m sure about this one. This movie may however prove to be the exception, because it is exceptionally well done, and has enough twists and turns to make it very interesting. There are several times in this movie where you have your suspicions, but then you end up saying— ‘I didn’t see that coming’. It makes for good suspense. And while the pace of this two hour twenty-six minute R rated film (R for violence) is a bit too slow, the acting is superb, especially by the two leads—Hugh Jackman (the distraught father trying to save his daughter) and Jake Gyllenhaal (the cop detective trying to find the kids).

One of the themes effectively explored in this film is this— What would you as a parent be prepared to do to get your child back? There are of course numerous true stories of perfectly normal non-violent parents going not merely to extremes, but going crazy, and outside the law, to find their child. Such a person is Mr. Dover played brilliantly by Hugh Jackman. You may say in advance ‘I would never do that even if it was my child’ but like any number of other crisis matters, you don’t really know what you would do until you get into that situation. Non-violent people become violent, quiet people become loud, peaceful people become belligerent, and normally sane people become insane in such situations. Losing a child to either kidnapping or sudden death is one of the ultimate tests of one’s character— how you respond changes you irrevocably.

One of the things I appreciated most about this film, is its honesty. It did not sugar coat things, and it showed both the success and failures of even the most determined detectives. The realism of the film is admirable… but it is also gut-wrenching. Maybe this is not the film to go see on Halloween when the kids are all out in the streets. But any other time, its worth seeing.

  • James Hampton

    Ben, great analysis. I too was blown away by how the movie realistically portrayed the emotional swing of both the dad and the cop, as each tried to cope with their own sense of failure (the dad feeling he didn’t protect his daughter, the cop frustrated he can’t nail the perpetrator), and the lengths each goes to in order to try and save the daughter, but also to deal with the haunting failure that dogs them.


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