Pauls Valley, Oklahoma — There are many blessings I can count in my life so far, like never having to experience the trauma of war or dealing with the loss of someone I know in a grisly manner. I can thankfully say almost every gruesome scene I’ve come across has been the result a Hollywood imagination and over time one can become conditioned to accepting that it is only fiction.
However, there are certain flicks that are so able to drive home a sense of terror and helplessness that one almost feels as if they themselves need time to recover from the tragedy due to overexposure. Today’s tale is one such subject where I could find a lot of positive things to say, but also wonder if the elements may have driven the message home too effectively. “Prisoners” at times is a relentless decent into humanity’s most violent temptations with any lines of right or decency blurred for those caught in the turmoil.
Set in a movie tone that is the combined Emo dream of Tim Burton, Nicholas Cage and Lydia from Beetlejuice (maybe just outside of Detroit), we are introduced to a slightly nutty, but loving Christian man named Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman). Depressing from the get-go with a soundtrack I imagine is now a hit at Guantanamo Bay, even when things apparently start out happy with a two family thanksgiving get-together, Dover seems to bring everyone else down from his son Ralph (Dylan Minnette) to his wife Grace (Maria Bello) and the neighbors Franklin (Terrence Howard) and Nancy Birch (Viola Davis).
Once that odd introduction is brushed away, we get to the heart of the matter when after the meal, both sets of parents notice that their daughters have gone missing. In classically stupid human fashion, Dover decides he’s much more qualified to handle the missing person’s case than seasoned officer assigned, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) and goes on a good old American spree of vigilante justice. Though at times it appears Dover is maybe helping find the two missing girls, his actions actually almost plunge him into a further place of darkness when he decides to abduct and torture who he thinks is responsible, a mentally handicapped boy named Alex Jones (Paul Dano).
Where this film succeeds is with an extremely respectable performance by both Jackman and Gyllenhaal, who steal the spotlight with convincingly raw personalities. The only problem with it is that you are so oversaturated by this quest for revenge that you almost dislike what is supposed to be a sympathetic character and beg for a conclusion so you don’t have to see it anymore.
Instead it drags on at least a half hour too long and by the time the real villain is revealed one doesn’t even care anymore. Top that off with one of those unimaginative blackout endings where you get to surmise whether everything wraps up nicely and then you can get ready to schedule your therapy. Since I think one time through the numbing sensory deprivation circus is enough I give “Prisoners,” two out of five thrillers.
Movie viewing experience courtesy of the Royal Twin Theater of Pauls Valley.