A few weeks ago I saw Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard and Melissa Leo. The trailer was very well done and I had high hopes for something truly terrifying and thrilling. What I found, instead, was a complete contradiction. On the one hand, Prisoners is particularly well done – shot spectacularly in a starkly beautiful location with a great cast and performances. On the other hand, it’s long. Far too long. And it plays with drama the way a Lifetime or Hallmark movie would.
But because I was a production undergrad and understand what it’s like to put your heart and soul into a project, it’s difficult for me to sit down and write a scathing review. The only movie that was bad enough for me to review “meanly” was Joshua Michael Stern’s Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher (read my review here). But after watching Prisoners, I left the theater confused. I expected something so wonderful, but what I discovered fell flat.
Because Prisoners redeems itself in some ways, I found myself jotting down what essentially became a “pros & cons” list – trying to sort my thoughts in order to figure out exactly how I felt about this dark and confused crime thriller.
- Beautiful location
- Great cast (especially Paul Dano)
- Stunning cinematography that lends itself to the story’s theme
- The entire cast does a pretty good job in their roles
- It kept me on the edge of my seat…some of the time…
- Melissa Leo and Paul Dano are really good at being weird/creepy/scary/strange/mysterious
- Story arc/theme of Hugh Jackman’s character essentially becoming the “bad guy” is interesting
- Too long
- Very dramatic and drawn out
- Lots of religious symbolism, to the point of being cheesy
- Too long
- The drama and “twists” remind me of a lifetime move – too unrealistic
- SOOOOO long
- WHY WOULD MELISSA LEO DO THAT?!
- The whistle at the end? Really?
- Hugh Jackman’s character doesn’t have much depth. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character only has a little more…
- So long and dramatic that it became unenjoyable. I kept thinking, WHEN WILL IT END?
- Maybe a little more violent than it needed to be
- Confusing – kidnappers, books, snakes, mazes, intruders, dead people, necklaces, kids clothing, what???
- The type of movie I’d watch on a cold Sunday afternoon with my mom and sister, just because nothing else is on TV
- The trailer was way better than the movie and that’s never good
Long story short, Prisoners is a film to be rented (or not seen at all).