The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Exhausted and bruised – my reactions to Prisoners

with 9 comments


It’s Thanksgiving Day and two families have come together to celebrate it with food, wine, singing and storytelling. Two young girls, one from each family, leave the party to quickly run over to the other house to get something. But they never come back and the families start searching for them, panic rising with every minute.

This is the beginning of Prisoners, a crime drama on the theme of child abduction and what you’re ready to do as a parent in order to get back your kid. This turns out to be a lot. One of the fathers gets into a state of mind that isn’t all that far away from what Ryan Gosling did in Drive.

Needless to say this is uncomfortable to watch and squishies should be warned: this might be too much for you (I had to cover my eyes a few times.) But it’s also very suspenseful and engaging. My attention didn’t drop for a second. In this way it reminds me of the director Denis Villeneuve’s previous movie, Incendies. Both movies contain a great deal of violence, both movies are emotionally powerful and both movies are built up as mysteries. We get a riddle. We get an investigation and a few twists and turns along the ride. (Some may argue that they could see them coming, but I didn’t. I ever went ahead of what was presented to me). And then we get a satisfying explanation that ties it all together.

When I left the theatre I felt exhausted and a bit bruised. It’s not just because the running time is long (over 2.5 hours); it’s also that there’s so much to take in as a viewer during those hours. I couldn’t have been more tired if I had been binge watching an entire season of a TV series.

Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal are both excellent as the worried father respectively the main police investigator. They’re so much one with their character that you forget that they are actors. The setting is also very realistic and feels familiar with the suburban environment, the pine forest and the winter weather: typical Scandinavian.

As I watched Hugh Jackman’s character crossing line after line in order to get his daughter back, I couldn’t stop repeating in my head, silently:  “No, don’t go that way. Do NOT go that way. NOT. I know how you’re feeling, but it isn’t right”.

But again: who am I to judge? As much as I’m against torture and death penalty, it’s the first thing that would come to mind if someone did anything bad against my daughters. So who am I to judge?

Anyway: if you want an engaging, well-crafted mystery that will keep you mentally as well as emotionally occupied for an entire evening, Prisoners is one of the better choices right now (provided that you’ve already watched Gravity and Captain Phillips).

Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve, US 2013) My rating 4/5

Written by Jessica

November 11, 2013 at 1:00 am

Posted in Prisoners

9 Responses

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  1. Great review 🙂 Watched this a couple days ago and LOVED it. Wound up exhausted and trembling. Such a powerful movie. Jackman and Gylenhaal were superb.


    November 11, 2013 at 1:45 am

    • Thank you! Have you seen Incendies yet? If not you should catch up with that one too.


      November 11, 2013 at 11:29 am

      • Yes! Loved it. Very powerful movie as well. Villeneuve is two-for-two with me.


        November 11, 2013 at 2:19 pm

  2. Great review Jessica. I’ll admit that I wasn’t drawn to this at first but I keep hearing good things. I’ll check it out at some point.

    Mark Walker

    November 11, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    • Thanks! I think you should watch it at some point. It’s not the kind of movie that you *have to* watch on a big screen. If you miss it out in theatres, I think it will do to watch it at home.


      November 11, 2013 at 8:56 pm

  3. I watched this earlier this week, Jess, and a lot of what you say rings true. I think this is Jackman’s Oscar-shot more than his work in Les Mis, and the film is absolutely terrifying for a parent. You know what I was most surprised by? Just how involving it was even thought it clocks in at just over 2 and a half hours! Honestly, I scare myself with my thoughts of what I’d do to anybody who hurt my kids, so i can empathize with Jackman’s character here, although I think I’d be erring on the side of Howard’s, in the end. I’d have to, otherwise I’d be up for criminal charges myself.

    The only sour note in the film is how small Maria Bello’s role really was. I was expecting the story to keep her in the frame more often, and I felt she was underused.

    The Hot Rod

    November 16, 2013 at 12:54 am

    • Indeed those hours went quickly. And at the same time it felt as if I had been through a lot, together with those characters. It had a bit of a TV series connection in that aspect. In a good way that is.


      November 17, 2013 at 6:35 pm

  4. I did like the Movie. 2.5 hours was just schwooshing by. Good film but not great. I didn´t like when it Went from drama to thriller.


    November 17, 2013 at 11:49 pm

  5. […] Prisoners From my review: […]

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