Warner Bros. / 2013 / 153 mins / R
Prisoners is the type of film that can only succeed with the right actors. Had the two big roles been filled by anyone else other than Hugh Jackman or Jake Gyllenhaal, it would not be as strong a thriller. That's good news considering this isn't an entirely original script. It's packed with plenty of white-knuckled fury and the vengeance we all want to see, but that's pretty much all it has to offer. Luckily, it's just enough to keep you interested.
A neighborhood Thanksgiving turns tragic when two girls disappear from their parents' sight. One of the fathers, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), is overcome with rage and determination for getting back his young daughter. He tries to cooperate with detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), but Keller soon grows tired of the law's methods. When the only possible suspect in the case is let out of police custody, Keller takes it upon himself to kidnap the seemingly ignorant creeper and torture him until he reveals the location of his daughter. Meanwhile, Loki does his best to unravel the mystery behind the disappearances and the strange connection with suspects drawing mazes.
This thriller doesn't hold back any punches (literally). Every moment that makes your blood boil with hatred for these criminal suspects is met with the fantastical result of rage. Keller's torture of the suspect goes way off the charts with him mostly screaming for answers and beating his face in until there is almost nothing left. Even Loki is reduced to fists when one suspect just giddily doodles in the interrogation room. It pushes the characters a little too far into revenge mode, but it's strangely satisfying in a grisly sort of way.
It's also incredibly compelling for how long the film decides to hold on the bad-cop interrogations. Keller goes so far down the dark route of torture that you start questioning how far one should go with punishing the wicked. Director Denis Villeneuve perfectly conveys the terror and frustration of feeling helpless in this situation. Most films with violent and gruesome scenes of questioning generally last for a few minutes before we skip to the next clue. The film doesn't shy away from how long the hard parts can be drawn out.
Every gritty moment from detective Loki rushing a dying child to the hospital to Keller encasing a suspect in a wooden tomb of water feels raw and powerful. This makes for a spectacular actor-driven drama that is so intriguing you forget about the predictable nature of the abducting cult and the obvious mastermind. It's more admirable for giving these accomplished actors scenes that they can really chew on.
Warner Brothers delivers a solid Blu-ray transfer. The 1080p transfer really showcases the detail of the brilliant cinematography from the stripped-down house to the cold nights in a neighborhood. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master audio completely immerses you into the world with a great mix of atmospheric sound effects.
Extras are pretty light, but I've grown to expect this with most Warner Brothers discs. There are only two brief featurettes with the cast exploring the story and characters.
Prisoners is one heck of a thriller for diving face first into the gritty scenes with a perfect cast. Story-wise, it follows the usual procedural formula. The acting from Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal elevates the film entirely. If you're looking for some great acting in a drama of furious justice, this is a solid recommendation.