Reel Reviews: Prisoners hits a few nerves

Prisoners, starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, is a slow cooker, but it’s still edible.

  • Sep. 27, 2013 9:00 a.m.
Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal

After a Thanksgiving dinner shared between two families, the Dovers and the Birches, two little girls go outside to play and are kidnapped.

Jake Gyllenhaal is the detective assigned to the case. Hugh Jackman, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis and Maria Bello are the parents of the two missing girls, each struggling in their own way to help solve the case.

When they take matters into their own hands, how far will they go to see their daughters returned safe?

We say, “It’s in the slow cooker, but it’s still edible.”

TAYLOR: The trailer for Prisoners spells the story out pretty clearly: Daughters get kidnapped by weirdo in a camper, Alex Jones (Paul Dano). Angry, excitable dad, Keller Dover (Jackman), gets carried away when the police are unable to keep the alleged perpetrator in custody. Then things get out of control.

When I found out the film was 153 minutes, I became a little concerned that it might drag a bit, and it does. However, the richness of the film is created by the actors having the time and space to develop their characters into something palpable to the audience.

HOWE: It was a fine performance by all.

My concern is with how much screen time Jackman gets. He seems to be the only one really intent on finding the missing girls. Franklin Birch (Howard), on the other hand, seems to let Dover (Jackman) deal with Jones and slips quietly into the background for a big chunk of the movie. It seems Birch knows imprisoning and torturing Jones to try and get information where the little girls are isn’t going to win him any brownie points with the police. The two moms are nonexistent. So it turns into a bit of a one man movie and that’s a shame really, as it’s the sort of movie actors could sink their teeth into.

TAYLOR: I agree Jackman carries the bulk of the film as he has the most actionable character. However, the other parents still give strong performances.

Birch has to walk a tightrope by knowing and participating in the interrogation of Jones, despite knowing that it’s the wrong thing to do. Mrs. Birch (Davis) becomes aware of their plans and actions, then convinces her husband to let Dover “do what he has to do.” Mrs. Dover (Bello) simply chooses to take drugs and sleep through the crisis. So each of the characters deals with the situation in their own way. It’s just that Jackman, through Dover’s survivalist paranoia, takes the bull by the horns. But yet another thing that holds the film’s pace at a slow crawl is the fact that everyone’s failing to get any information about the whereabouts of the little girls.

HOWE: On the plus side, it is a beautifully shot movie; very grey and bleak, giving an ominous feel to how each character is feeling. Add the airy soundtrack and it all ties together well. It’s just that with this ensemble of talent in the cast, I expected a little bit more from them.

—Taylor gives Prisoners 2.5 mumbled confessions out of 5.

—Howe gives it 3 red whistles out of 5.

The film is currently showing at the Galaxy Cinemas in Vernon.

– Brian Taylor and Peter Howe are music critics based in Vernon, B.C. Their column, Reel Reviews, appears in The Morning Star every Friday and Sunday.