4/5 stars

If you’re looking for a movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat, Prisoners is the perfect choice. The film has all the components needed to create the perfect fall thriller: Dark, cold wood surrounding a suburb; two missing little girls; a lineup of mentally unstable, odd-looking suspects (one has the IQ of a 10-year-old and the other has a strange habit of purchasing children’s clothing); a badass detective who’s never left a case unfinished; and two families who test their moral limits in their quest for answers.

When his daughter and her friend go missing on Thanksgiving, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is prepared to go to whatever lengths necessary to get them back. His motto, “Pray for the best, prepare for the worst,” is continually pushed to the limit with each passing day his daughter and her friend remain missing. Jackman’s character is juxtaposed with Frank Birch (Terrance Howard). Birch, the father of the other missing girl who is equally willing to do anything for his daughter’s safety, opts to handle the situation from the sidelines.

Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) faces a dilemma on how to solve the case. Though he attempts to handle the situation in an ethically sound manner, he is torn between following protocol and listening to his intuition. Gyllenhaal plays his role excellently — with an intense gaze and a nervous eye twitch, he convinces the audience that he is incredibly keen and intuitive, but yet is confounded by the case that he tries to solve. Each suspect seems guiltier than the next. Each causes chills to shoot up your spine but also makes you question how we perceive those who have different mental capabilities.

The entire cast of Prisoners is strong, but Jackman and Gyllenhaal compete for the best performance.Jackman does a great job of playing the fierce father role. Dover is so adamant about his plan to find his daughter that he develops a sort of tunnel vision —  his passion for procuring answers intensely controls him. At times, he is so high strung and on edge that it becomes almost comical.

The storyline of Prisoners will keep you questioning which prisoners the movie title refers to. The complexity of the situation seems to turn everyone into a prisoner. The families of the missing girls become prisoners of their despair. Dover becomes a prisoner of his consciousness. The suspects become prisoners of society’s judgments. Detective Loki becomes a prisoner of his case. The title, like the film itself, is open ended, leaving you to decide what you believe the truth to be.

Overall, the movie is worth seeing. Though it may seem like it is a story line that has already been hashed out, the great ensemble of acting and sharp production make it a standout movie this season. Despite its length, the film’s strength and intensity will keep you riveted. And as the characters question their morals, you may find yourself questioning yours, too.

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