Don't Miss

Prisoners – Review

prisoners review poster
prisoners review poster
prisoners review poster


Release Date: 20th September 2013
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Aaron Guzikowski
Cast: Hugh Jackman - Jake Gyllenhaal - Viola Davis - Melissa Leo - Maria Bello - Paul Dano - Terrence Howard



Sound & Music



Visual Effects

Total Score

User Rating
5 total ratings


Posted October 5, 2013 by

Prisoners Review:

So here we have the awaited ‘Prisoners‘, the first international mainstream release from director Denis Villeneuve, who achieved success with acclaimed films such as ‘Incendies’ in 2010, and ‘Polytechnique’ in 2009. ‘Prisoners’ collaborates the work of both Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman, two household names that, in my opinion, still have a lot to prove.

Having said this, I was always going to see ‘Prisoners‘. Its premise is dark and engaging, and gives the two leading male actors a chance to shine. The plot centres around the kidnapping of two young girls, and when police leads begin to weaken, one of the fathers of the girls takes matters into his own hands in his desperation to protect his family.

So…the fundamental question: Is ‘Prisoners’ a good film?…the answer is yes. While it is not without its flaws, ‘Prisoners’ is fundamentally well made, engaging, and enjoyable.

To begin with, the direction, setting and camera construction throughout the film are excellent. Denis Villeneuve created a film that was shot clinically and effectively, with subtle traces of an obvious artistic style. The setting of the film, the weather, the mise-en-scene all reflected the dark narrative, while certain interesting, and at times strange camera work gave the film an enjoyable edge I was not expecting.

In addition to this performances were fundamentally good. The cast as a whole produced a film that was emotionally engaging and relatable. Secondary performances from Melissa Leo, Terrance Howard, Maria Bello, Paul Dano and Viola Davis greatly helped to build the audience-to-character empathy required for this type of thriller. The two leading roles from Hugh Jackman and Jack Gyllenhaal both exceeded expectations, particularly Gyllenhaal, who created an interesting, mysterious character different from other types of role I have seen him play.

The quality of the writing does not, however, impress as much. While the narrative is effective, it is a little predictable, and moves in a linear pattern. Yes…the film does employ narrative twists, but the slight predictability here detracts from the level of surprise desired. Having said this, it could be argued that the narrative needed to be routed in a more basic plot, as it draws attention to the emotions of the characters, which appears to be one of the writers key concerns.

A further criticism I have about the film relates to its pace and duration. The film is two and a half hours long (give or take a minute or two), and moves at a steady pace. At times I thought certain scenes were unnecessarily prolonged and could perhaps have benefited from an injection of excitement in an attempt to remove the predictability.

Another interesting ascetic worth mentioning is the absence of music as background support. Thrillers of this type would normally use music to generate suspense, mood and emotion. However the film is completely devoid of musical presence. Instead, these ascetics are generated through the powerful emotions of the characters, the dialogue and the narrative itself. This lack of music increases the emotion portrayed by the characters, as it make their acting and reactions the focus for the audience .This construction is not unique to ‘Prisoners’, but it is utilized effectively throughout the film.

My worry for ‘Prisoners’ is its memorability. While the film engages with an audience on an emotional level, it contains nothing that makes it stand out from other thrillers based on a similar premise. The modern film industry is so vast and versatile that producing a film which could be considered as conservative in its own genre will always run the risk of being forgotten.


Read Similar Articles?…

[Review] – ‘World War Z’
[Review] – ‘The Purge’
[Review] – ’47 Ronin’

Reviews | Joint Reviews | Articles | Debates | Promotions | Interviews |

Written by:

FD twitter

Adam Snowden
Website Administrator

Join The Debate! Leave us a comment…


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Response


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.