Prisoners: One Of My Favorite Films
Updated: Apr 23
Prisoners is a 2013 drama starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s directed by Denis Villeneuve and it’s one of my all time favorite films. I remember wanting to see this in theaters back in 2013, but I didn’t for whatever reason. I watched it at home on demand and it completely blew me away. It was one of the first films that really made me appreciate the art of filmmaking. I’m going to be spoiling this so please watch it if you haven’t.
Denis Villeneuve is one of my favorite filmmakers. He has a track record like no other but this film is my favorite of his. His direction is solid yet subtle. I love his intimate zooms and the framing of his shots. The film’s plot isn’t that original but Villeneuve’s direction adds a lot to make it stand out of the crowd. It's his best work and he deserves all the praise.
The cinematography is gorgeous and it enhances the film to another level. Roger Deakins shot this film and he went all out. The film already feels believable and the cinematography makes it looks like we're watching this awful situation in real life. One of the best looking films I’ve ever seen.
The score by Jóhann Jóhannsson is beautiful and one of my favorite scores. The tracks for each scene fit like a glove and it really enhances the film, like all the other technical aspects. It sets up and holds the eerie atmosphere throughout until the very end. RIP Jóhann Jóhannsson.
The script by Aaron Guzikowski is really impressive. The dialogue and characters feel so real. The characters feel so alive and we understand each of them and where they are coming from. Like I said, the story isn’t original but all the technical aspects, performances, and the script make it stand out. It really feels like we're watching these real people go through this awful situation. I read the script and it's something I like to study and take notes on from time to time. It's one of the most realistic and believable scripts in my opinion.
Hugh Jackman delivers his best performance as Keller Dover. Holy shit is he a powerhouse. The emotions and pain we see his character go through feels so real. His anger is ferocious. He does terrible things in this but we understand why. In the end, if he didn’t do what he did his daughter wouldn’t have been saved. Jackman should’ve been nominated for his performance and he should’ve won an Oscar.
Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki is one of my favorite film characters of all time. I remember after my first viewing, I literally wanted to be Detective Loki. I even grew out my hair so I can slick it back like his. I love his look. His hair and tattoos are awesome. I think this is Gyllenhaal’s best performance. It’s a quiet performance but he does a lot of acting with his face, body movements, and eyes. We don’t know much about him but we do know that he’s solved every crime he’s investigated and he was in a foster home as a child. I wish we can get another film with him solving another crime. I love the lengths he goes to find the missing girls and in the end, he succeeds. Like Jackman, he should’ve been nominated and won an Oscar for his performance.
The other actors are also a huge highlight. Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Maria Bello, and Paul fucking Dano. What a stacked cast. Everyone is on their A-Game and they all easily could have won Oscars for their performances.
I consider this film to be a neo-noir. The story is so film noir. A Detective investigating two missing girls, while one of the girl’s father kidnaps the lead suspect and tries to beat the truth out of him. I love how the film explores the morality of this terrible situation. Is Keller right for what he’s doing? No, not at all, but in his mind he believes what he’s doing is right. Same with Detective Loki, he does some sketchy things that are definitely not legal. Still, what they do feels so real and we understand why.
I love the ending of this film. Keller is still in the hole in the ground at the kidnappers house and everyone else thinks he took off. Loki is at the crime scene on a cold winter night. He’s about to leave until he hears a faint sound of a whistle. At first, he dismisses it but once he hears it a few more times, we see he realizes something and then the screen cuts to black. I love the ambiguity of the ending. Does he find Keller? We don’t know. I believe he does. I also love how the whole reason why the two girls go missing is because they were looking for her red whistle. In the end, we see she finds it because Keller finds it in the hole where the two girls were kept. Because of that whistle, he was saved. What a fucking film.
All in all, this is a perfectly made film with top notch performances. I love the story and the dark realistic neo-noir atmosphere. It’s perfect in every way and it will always be one of my favorite films of all time.