Welcome to The Best Movies I’ve Never Seen! This is the part of the blog where I work my way through 100 films I’ve never seen that are generally considered to be great. You’re invited to watch along with me if you can find a copy or find it streaming. So grab some popcorn and let’s get started!
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Quick synopsis… The abduction of two children prompts father Hugh Jackman to take matters into his own hands in this harrowing thriller.
Even though I vaguely remember seeing a trailer for this movie back when it was first released, I’m not sure how I missed seeing it. It’s got an incredible cast and I’ve been impressed by other films I’ve seen directed by Villeneuve.
Then again, this is prior to his making Arrival or the Blade Runner sequel, so maybe his name as a director just didn’t register in my brain at that point.
Hugh Jackman plays Keller Dover, a Pennsylvania contractor whose family is heading to celebrate Thanksgiving with another family in the neighborhood, the Birches. After dinner, each of the families’ youngest daughters take a walk back to the Dovers’ home, promising they’ll be right back.
But they never come back.
Keller’s older son is suspicious of a suspicious looking RV that they had seen the girls playing near earlier in the day, saying he was certain someone had been inside. Police Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is called onto the case and he immediately tracks down the RV and its owner, Alex Jones (Paul Dano).
Unfortunately, when Loki interrogates Jones, he quickly discovers that there’s no way this guy could pull off an abduction and make two little girls completely vanish, as he has the IQ of a 10-year-old. That, on top of forensics finding nothing in the RV, means that the police can’t hold Alex for more than 48 hours without charging him. And since they have no evidence to charge him with a crime…
But Keller isn’t convinced. He’s a grieving father with a grieving wife and grieving son. When he finds out that Jones is being released, he assaults him in front of the police station. Before he’s pulled off of the kid, Alex quietly tells him, “They didn’t cry until I left them.” This only does more to convince Keller that Jones is lying or faking his condition in front of the police and will continue to get away with what he’s done.
Meanwhile, Detective Loki continues his search for the girls elsewhere, chasing down leads based on a list of convicted sex offenders. He comes to the home of a Father Patrick Dunn, who is drunk and unconscious on the floor, giving Loki probable cause to enter the premises. Discovering that the old man is just passed out and not dead, he decides to have a look around, leading him to a basement where he finds the long dead body of a man who Father Dunn claims he killed because he confessed to killing 16 children as part of his “war on God.”
Keller isn’t done with Alex, though. He decides to sit outside Alex’s home and watch him for a while, witnessing him as he walks his aunt’s dog and yanks it up, holding it in the air by its leash. If that weren’t enough of a red flag, Keller then hears Alex singing, “Jingle bells, Batman smells…” which the little girls were singing that Thanksgiving afternoon before they disappeared. Coincidence? Keller doesn’t think so either… so he decides to take justice into his own hands.
Keller pulls a gun and abducts Alex, chaining him to a radiator in a home that he’s refurbishing. He brings in Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard) to help him “interrogate” Alex in ways the police won’t. But after beating and scaring Alex into submission, they really get no further than the police did.
And that’s where I’m going to end my description of the plot because if I don’t stop there I’m going to get into some serious spoiler territory and I do not want to do that to you.
I definitely recommend this one if you like thrillers. Watch it if you like Jake Gyllenhaal. Watch it if you like Hugh Jackman. Watch it if you like Denis Villeneuve’s direction and want to see the first English-language film in his filmography. It’s available to watch on Hulu if you have access.
Having now seen Prisoners, it ranks at 460 out of 2,262 movies on my personal Flickchart list.
Have you ever seen Prisoners? If so, what did you think? Let me know down in the comments!