I normally don’t like to tease other reviews in my own, but here I feel it necessary, considering there is already discussion of multiple Oscars for this film, despite it only being opening weekend. The critical acclaim for this movie is quite impressive, and is only continuing to pile on praise. So, the question remains (that is, the question I am now forcing upon whomever is reading this 3:D)…where do I fit into the fray? Here’s my review of Prisoners.
Two neighboring families meet up for Thanksgiving. Everything is going well until, suddenly, each of the families’ youngest daughters (Erin Gerasimovich and Kyla Drew Simmons) go missing, sending their fathers Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard), respectively, along with the help of Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) to track them down. The main suspect is the mysterious soft-spoken man-child Alex Jones (Paul Dano), driver of a strange RV to which the two girls were attracted So, the chase is on to get a confession out of Jones, whether with the law or against it, and get the girls back.
Right from the start, the trailers for Prisoners did not impress me in the slightest. It was an even bigger tip-off, I thought, when I noticed the two-and-a-half hour running time. I was sure there was simply no way this film would win me over. I would just walk away feeling a sense of time and money wasted. And, in the end…I was right. It is far beyond me how this film warranted Oscar talk, because I see nothing but a shallow, pretentious, needlessly gruesome failure of a thriller that tries so desperately to be emotional, but winds up being merely laughable.
Not one member of this cast looks like they want to be there. Emotionless faces across the board completely negate the emotional reaction the film tries so hard to elicit. For characters that are supposed to be horribly grief-stricken over the disappearance of their children, they sure seem to handling it pretty well, judging from their facial expressions. The only one who breaks this streak in any way is Hugh Jackman, and this is merely to let out melodramatic screams of forced anger. Otherwise, he is just as stone-faced as the rest.
The writing, in general, is some of the most stilted and awkward I’ve seen in a good while; no doubt the most so in 2013. The dialogue between characters is so uncomfortable and unnatural, it feels like an ADD-riddled teenager wrote it by watching a much better film about child abduction and attempting to recreate said film. The pacing is also incredibly off. Moments that should be interesting and suspenseful are merely brushed over, and those that should only require brief exposition are instead stretched to the umpth degree. It makes it a very frustrating film to watch. It also forces what could have been a very intriguing plot twist to become more confusing and irritating than anything, due simply to the fact that the buildup to it was done so very poorly.
Now, as I mentioned before, the film is very pretentious. From the opening credits done entirely in silence all the way to the incredibly forced open-to-interpretation cliffhanger ending, Prisoners believes itself to be way more important and intense than it is. There are also scenes of extreme violence, gore, or general disturbing imagery that seem to have really no purpose. They exist simply to disturb, and add nothing to the overall story whatsoever.
Again, the Oscar talk surrounding this film is a concept I simply do not understand. This was one of the most frustrating experiences of the year for me. Prisoners is self-important, self-indulgent, uncomfortable, and overall extremely awkward to sit through. No one seems to put any heart into this whatsoever, and it is the definition of failed Oscar bait. I sincerely hope the Academy takes a pass on this one. I see nothing but emptiness and forced emotion. It is for this reason I hope you, dear reader, take a pass on it as well. There is so much more out there far more deserving of your time than this. Please spend your money elsewhere! And, as always, thanks for reading!! :D