Prisoners Review
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During most of the year, movies tend to be pretty fluffy and unrealistic—fantasies and silly comedies and superhero thrillers. But, during the fall, things start to get serious, and the themes of the movies start to hit a little closer to home. Denis Villeneuve’s latest, Prisoners, depicts every parent’s worst nightmare—but, for better or for worse, it’s not nearly as horrifying as it could have been.

Prisoners stars Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover, a hard-working husband and father who’s spent his life preparing for any emergency. But he’s not prepared for his daughter, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich), and his friends’ daughter, Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons), to go missing on Thanksgiving afternoon.

As friends hold candlelight vigils and volunteers set out to search for the missing girls, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) hunts for clues that take him through years of unsolved kidnapping cases. But Keller is convinced that Detective Loki isn’t doing enough, so he decides to take matters into his own hands.

Prisoners sounds like the kind of movie that would leave any parent—especially the parent of a little girl—curled up in a sobbing mess in his or her seat in the theater. It sounds brutal and relentless and absolutely heartbreaking. And, in a way, it is. The situation is distressing—and a couple of the more intense scenes may cause you to look away in horror. If you put yourself into the characters’ shoes, you’ll understand the range of emotions that the four parents experience.

At the same time, though, it isn’t as potent as you might imagine. It’s a deliberately-paced and sometimes even clinical drama—and, despite the fact that I have a daughter (one named Anna, no less), I was surprised to find that I didn’t feel the intense emotional response that I was expecting.

Fortunately, the mystery here is an interesting one, despite the fact that you’ll most likely put the pieces together early on. Gyllenhaal makes a likable hero—tough and gritty, yet relentlessly methodical. Jackman, meanwhile, once again shows his range as the angry father who lets his emotions take control. Still, there’s so much about these characters and their stories that isn’t developed—hints of back story that are never really expanded, plot points that are simply left hanging. And, in the end, while it hints at a riveting story, there are simply too many nagging plot holes and details that just don’t make sense.

As a result, Prisoners isn’t the devastating drama that you might expect. The cast is noteworthy, and the story has promise, but it fails to come together in a way that’s both intellectually and emotionally satisfying. So, if you do choose to check it out, feel free to leave the tissues at home.

Blu-ray Review:
The Blu-ray release of Prisoners is surprisingly light on extras—with a special features menu that offers just two options. Every Moment Matters is more of a teaser, setting up the story and discussing the strained relationship between Jackman’s Keller and Gyllenhaal’s Detective Loki—a relationship that director Denis Villeneuve likens to the cowboy-sheriff relationship in an old Western.

Powerful Performances, meanwhile, is a longer, somewhat more in-depth feature. This one takes a look at the remarkable ensemble cast—one by one—exploring the characters, their personalities, and each actor’s preparation for the role.

They may not be long or particularly extensive, but the features still offer some interesting insights into the film and its cast—Powerful Performances especially. So be sure to take a few minutes after your next viewing of the film to check them out.

Listen to the review on Reel Discovery:

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