Prisoners is a suspense thriller—completely my cup of tea. However, it is a child-abduction suspense thriller, and that’s where I cringe. Nevertheless, this is a gripping, if forced and slightly ham-handed, exploration of the extremes a parent might go to in order to find a missing child.
The story is fairly straightforward: Keller (Hugh Jackman) and Grace’s (Maria Bello) daughter, Anna, along with a neighborhood friend, Joy, have gone missing. The young girls were last seen playing near a rundown camper; and the driver, Alex (Paul Jones), is the prime suspect. When Alex’s mental condition—he has the I.Q. of a 10-year-old—and lack of evidence make it impossible to hold him, the detective-in-charge (Jake Gyllenhall) must explore other avenues. Meantime, Keller, who is convinced Alex is the key to finding the girls, takes matters into his own hands.
While the film is a fascinating examination of the nature of evil and how noble intentions can become sinister, the film has some unshakable flaws. The plot—while predictable—tries the audience’s patience at times. It also is 30 minutes too long, strained with self-indulgent scenes that dilute the tension. That being said, the acting is Oscar-caliber, led by Hugh Jackman, who brilliantly climbs into the skin of a desperate father. The movie is compelling but clumsy and would have benefited massively from an edit. It’s a 6.