After being placed on Hollywood’s Blacklist of scripts a few years back, it was until producer Mark Wahlberg snapped it up we might not have seen ‘PRISONERS’ about parents Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello and Terrence Howard and Viola Davis coming to turns with their children being abducted and hiring Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) to find the girls. Along the way tensions mount and suspects are presumed (like Paul Dano doing his usual excellent thing here). This is all happening while channelling real life cases of child abduction like the one of Madeline McCann, not that there is any analogy or suggestions as to what happened to her contexted into this film.
The thing which hits me about this film though is how dark it really is. This isn’t just from the initial premise or the ‘War on Terror’ interrogation context people have been comparing it to. But instead it is from the very dark, very textural and gloomed snowed on woodlands from its cinematography which makes it feel like it’s from some Scandinavian crime film (see also ‘The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo’), and how it seems to go darker and darker as the story prolongs. It really adds to the atmosphere, and along with the lead performances all channelling different responses from the set of circumstances introduced in the earlier part of the narrative. You have the angry father of Hugh Jackman, you have the depressed mother of Maria Bello and so on. But it’s these performances and the tone which does help against ‘Prisoners’ downfall.
Now it’s not a bad thing is a film starts out and ends in a completely different place to what you my expect, but when this completely different place the film ends is constructed on characters doing out of character stuff without any real conviction, falling to clichés including that of the Detective slamming sheets of his desk in anger only to find the remaining clue to the case there all along, and just the general fact that when the case is solved seems rather preposterous. And this is a shame as where it begins at, there a real feel or something memorable, something special perhaps, in a strange way it reminded me of ‘Zodiac’ (but that could be the Gyllenhaal connection playing up here), only for it to end like some ‘Midsummer Murders’ TV drama. And I don’t think it helped that I knew who did it after 30 minutes in, however I must say I was still compelled to see how it would end, which I guess isn’t a bad thing.
In all ‘Prisoners’ should do its job, even if you can’t help but think the ending could have seen it as a one off television drama. But still with this real sense of bleakness and some solid performances keeping it going, its still worthy of your attention.