Movie Review: Prisoners


Cary, NC – Prisoners is a long, heavy film that examines how far a person would go when confronted with tragedy that features a great turn from Hugh Jackman and a career best performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.

Jackman is Great, but Gyllenhaal is Better

Hugh Jackman seems determined to prove to the viewing public that he can act. Between X-Men films, Jackman has done some extremely tough and emotional movies. The Fountain, about a scientist struggling to find a cure for his wife’s cancer that spans over 1000 years. Les Miserables, the film adaption of the famously depressing Broadway musical. And now Prisoners, where Jackman plays a father who goes to extreme lengths to find out what happened to his recently kidnapped daughter.

All tough material to be sure, but Jackman once again proves that not only is he a comic book hero, but an actual movie star with talent to boot.

What’s even more impressive in Prisoners, is that his character isn’t exactly portrayed as heroic. His response to his daughter’s kidnapping is understandable, but purposefully never justified, forcing the audience to decide whether or not he is doing the right thing. It’s a bold choice for the actor, and he completely rises to the challenge.

However, it’s Jake Gyllenhaal, who really steps up his game in Prisoners.

He plays the detective assigned to Jackman’s case, and the two characters are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. Where Jackman’s character is full of rage and never once fails to let you know what he believes is right, Gyllenhaal plays it much quieter, forcing you to really pay attention in order to find out what his character is thinking. It’s a performance that’s lives or dies by the details. Even with his character’s somewhat goofy appearance, Gyllenhaal has delivered what is quickly becoming one of my very favorite performances of the year, and ranks nicely with his other fantastic police procedural drama, 2007’s Zodiac.

Great Supporting Cast

It should also be mentioned that Prisoners has a pretty impressive supporting cast.

Terrence Howard and Viola Davis (who you might remember from The Help) do great work as friends of Jackman’s family whose daughter was kidnapped with theirs. Maria Bello, seen in  A History of Violence and Grown Ups, is heartbreaking as Jackman’s distraught wife. And Melissa Leo ( The Fighter) and Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood, Little Miss Sunshine) have small but pivotal roles where the less said the better. They all do great work, helping add to the already impressive and expansive story.

Prisoners a Must See in Theaters

Prisoners is a fantastic film that isn’t afraid to take it’s time to get where it’s going. It’s a long film to be sure ( roughly 2 and ½ hours ) but it never once feels boring, quietly drawing you in from frame one and gradually upping the tension as each minute passes.

In fact, I have to insist that Prisoners be seen in theaters. It’s the kind of smart, serious adult drama that simply isn’t made on a large scale anymore, and that more than anything is reason enough for a trip to the theater.


Review by Jordan Hunt for CaryCitizen. Read more CaryCitizen Movie Reviews.