Saturday, May 3, 2014


It's STILL raining in Florida for the third straight day.  Yesterday morning, adrift with nothing to do, I decided to watch a PPV movie.  I chose Prisoners.

The film is dark and cold, frequently shot on location in conditions of icy rain, snow mix, and just plain heavy snow.  It is a tense drama filled with suspense and frankly ugly emotions and situations.

Somehow, it grabbed my attention and kept it for all two and a half hours.  Even when the little voice inside me said "stop this and come back to it later" I didn't move.  The remote stayed where it was untouched and unused.

Prisoners is the story of a family and their friends who live down the street.  On Thanksgiving Day, they go down to their friends' home for dinner.  Each family has a teen-ager (one boy and one girl) and younger daughters of the same age.  After dinner as the day progresses, the teen-agers watch tv.  The adults talk, laugh, and drink wine.  The two younger girls come to their parents and ask if they can run back to the other house for something.  The parents say yes, but only if the teen-aged brother goes with them.  Then the adults go back to their wine and laughter.

As it grows dark, it starts to snow.  Hugh Jackman, as the main character, becomes worried about his daughter and decides to go home to check on her.  The house is empty.  The girls are gone.  Whether they made it there or not is unknown.  They never asked their teen-aged siblings to go with them.  They just left and vanished in the short walk down the block.

The story unfolds with the search for the missing girls as it stretches into weeks without word of their location or condition. Bit by bit the families begin to fall apart, prisoners of the situation of which they have no control.

Jackman's character becomes filled with rage and acts accordingly.  His friend, whose daughter is also missing, is played by Terrence Howard.  While he goes along with some of the events, he protests the need for revenge.

Maria Bello and Viola Davis play the mothers, the first completely falls apart and relies on pills and liquor to get through the days. Viola Davis plays a pillar of strength for the two families.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays the detective assigned to the case.  He, too, becomes a prisoner of the situation, frustrated at his inability to find the girls, and then at some extremely unfortunate events in the investigation.

The story woven is convoluted with many false steps and clues.  There is a resolution that is partially satisfactory, but even that has its twist.

Shot on dark days (literally) or at night, the film has a mysterious feel to it, as if the viewer cannot get his/her bearing.  The music is heavy, minor key, underscoring the ambiance of the film perfectly.

The cast is an excellent ensemble who give wonderful performances.

It isn't my favorite Hugh Jackman role, but it does show his increasing versatility as an actor.  This is a character you've never seen before...Well some of the rage has come out in his role as Wolverine, but this rage is visceral and hard to take at times.

Terrence Howard plays a perfect foil to Jackman, tempering the rage with wisdom and common sense.

Maria Bello is terrific as Jackman's wife, who spends much of the film in an enervated stupor because she can't face the truth of the situation. 

Viola Davis is always spellbinding on film.  This one is no exception.  She gives a measured mature performance.

Jake Gyllenhaal gives a magnificent performance as the troubled, hamstrung detective.

And last, but certainly not least, look for one of my favorite actors these days, Melissa Leo in a pivotal role, handled with just the right mixture of emotions.

As you can probably tell, this is not a light-hearted movie.  It is a darkly serious drama, the likes of which one of the nordic playwrights like Strindberg or Ibsen might have crafted.

The ending leaves the viewer to make his/her own decision as to what ultimately happens.

Not light popcorn fare, it is an atmospheric drama with chills, surprises, and lots of stunning moments.

There are some images I wish I had not seen.  But I was mesmerized by the film, even the appalling ugliness.  It is just too powerful.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, check it out.  I can honestly say not since Silence of the Lambs has a film affected me like this one.

Until next time...


  1. Excellent review with thoughtful commentary on the actors and actresses who make the story come to live.

  2. Thank you, Skye. This isn't a movie for everybody. Parts of it are disturbing. But it is a well-made film with a great cast.