Not since Bradley Cooper’s performance in Silver Linings Playbook, have I made this statement, “Man, I didn’t know he had it in him.” That is how I would describe the acting of Hugh Jackman in the new film Prisoners. It’s not like Jackman is some acting slouch who finally got his chance to shine. Jackman brought Wolverine to life and was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Les Misérables. But let’s face it, with all his time on Broadway and hosting award shows Jackman was tailor-made for that movie musical role. In Prisoners Jackman unleashes a very dark side of an ordinary man named Keller Dover who snaps after the abduction of his daughter.
Prisoners starts out just like any other abduction movie. Two normal Pennsylvania families have their daughters disappear and foul play is suspected. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Detective Loki who is assigned to the case and apprehends a suspect (played by Paul Dano) almost immediately, but is forced to let him go due to lack of evidence. The confusion from the police after the arrest prompts the distraught father to take the law into his own hand to find out the truth. Jackman goes from quiet religious contractor to a torturous thug who is scary and sympathetic. Anyone who has children can relate to Dover’s vicious treatment of a man who he believes has answers to the whereabouts of his missing child. I wouldn’t want to describe how I would act if my kids went missing and I thought I knew what happened to them. Jackman’s powerful performance becomes more and more uncomfortable to watch as Prisoners reaches its climax. Jackman’s role is still very sympathetic even if his character has lost his moral compass.
Unfortunately the overall experience of Prisoners is bogged down with subplots that go nowhere and prove to be pointless at the end of the film. I know Prisoners is supposed to show how detectives can get side tracked by misinformation or obvious choices in suspects, but the twists seemed forced and out-of-place in such a gritty film like Prisoners. Not to mention the time wasted in meaningless story arcs that make the running time of Prisoners at almost two and a half hours. You could have easily eliminated a half hour in aimless story lines to make Prisoners a tighter and less bloated viewing experience.
Please don’t take away from this review that I though Prisoners was a bad film. It’s not. The acting in Prisoners still makes it a good movie, but it could have been a great film if some of the fruitless subplots could have been eliminated. Prisoners is an intense watch that is sometimes not enjoyable to view, but you have to respect where the emotionally wrecked characters are coming from. Jake Gyllenhaal shows he has the cop role down on film and Melissa Leo is unrecognizable and shows once again why she is one of the most under utilized actresses in Hollywood. Even with an unnecessary long running time and lack of direction in the third act, Prisoners is still a film people should see. Overall, I give Prisoners 3 out of 4 potatoes.
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