It’s good. Watch it. And when you’re done you’re going to watch Enemy too.
Prisoners is a captivating thriller / mystery that manages to keep a decent pace and avoid over-done plot devices despite resting in a very crowded genre. The abducted child/helpless parent film has been done many times, but this one manages to present a mystery engaging enough to keep it interesting. The pieces of the puzzle are laid out in a way that they keep you guessing and building theories all the way through, but they also do fit together to make a coherent picture at the end. It’s a ‘satisfying’ mystery in that once you have all the information the story makes sense.
The atmosphere is quite effective as well. Most of the film takes place in the rainy days of late November and the dreariness really adds to the sense of helplessness.
One aspect that I very much appreciated, but others may find to be a fault, is the very minor emphasis put on character development. The film isn’t about parental anguish or the struggle of a cop – it’s about the mystery of what happened to two little girls. For me the characters were as fully developed as they needed to be to get the story across, without wasting my time.
I like the title too – it’s unclear even to the end who it should refer to (the children, their parents, the abductors) and the ambiguity adds to the mystery.
However, there are a few aspects that I didn’t like. I think Hollywood has greatly overstated how easily the average family-man can be pulled by grief to the point of doing despicable things to another human being; and this film is an example of that. Even worse, the torture scenes (admittedly tame by today’s standards) were entirely unnecessary as they didn’t really advance the plot. Perhaps the point was to show the uselessness of torture, but if that’s the case this is the wrong movie for making that statement.
Overall, it was an interesting and entertaining mystery. You won’t be talking about it for days, but it’s worth an evening on the couch.