Child getting abducted, skillful father takes the matter into his own hands. Where have I seen that before? Well, Prisoners tells the same story, but does so with such a unique and brilliant style, it feels like we are looking at a completely different story as opposed to the same taut plot.
There were two films in 2013 directed by acclaimed Canadian auteurs – the wonderfully recognized Dallas Buyers Club and this, the incredibly underrated Prisoners. The film doesn’t feel like a common American thriller – it has the dark, violent tone of Scandinavian crime dramas, the stylish flair of Asian thrillers and the psychotic energy of a gritty independent film. Added to that, there is a peculiar set design – long winding roads, cloudy skies and dark rooms, and sinister street-lamps and headlights juxtaposed with the comforting natural light of bedroom lamps and candles. It is beautifully photographed (of course it is, after all it was the legendary Roger Deakins who was the cinematographer).
The performances in this film are good, but not amazing. This is more a storyline-driven film, and the actors did a great job at fleshing out their characters and creating these roles. Hugh Jackman is incredible as Keller Dover, and Jake Gyllenhaal creates a the “nice-guy” smart cop archetype that is very rarely seen this way in films – yes, he makes mistakes and he isn’t a super genius detective, but he is fully committed to this case and all others not because it is his job, but because he feels some emotion connection to these people. His storyline isn’t really discussed very much – what does Detective Loki do when he gets home? Why is he so dedicated? What effect do these cases have on him? We don’t know, and we must ask the question – do we really want to know? By not answering these questions, the role has a certain ambiguity to it which further serves to create a mysterious atmosphere.
This is one of the best postmodern noirs you can watch. It is vastly superior to many similar films – it is dark and twisted but strangely uplifting to see the passion one father has for his family. Unlike similar films like Taken and Flightplan, which portray the parents as super-human investigators, but rather Keller Dover is just a naïve man who will go to any extents to save his daughter within his very human powers, even if it means he has to put his life in danger.
Watch this film – it is insanely entertaining but also incredibly scary – horror films don’t have anything on this very real danger that children are precious, and there are sick people in this world who will tear families apart for their own perverted pleasure.